- - Thursday, August 17, 2023

The impact of younger voters was one of the biggest reasons the predicted “red wave” did not occur last fall. In battleground states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Arizona, younger voters made a real difference in important Senate races.

Conservatives must counter years of liberal indoctrination by reaching more students at younger ages and with an even better way of delivering our message to members of Generation Z.

The good news is that there is hope with younger voters. A new poll conducted by Echelon Insights on behalf of Young America’s Foundation surveyed high school and college students across the country. The results will surprise many inside the Washington and New York City bubbles.

The economy was the top concern among college students and second for high school students. In contrast, environment and climate change ranked fifth, while abortion was sixth and LGBTQ rights was seventh on the list of most important issues.

This is a far cry from the parade of liberal commentators who assert that conservatives are out of touch with younger voters on the issues that matter most to them.

We need to stop taking the bait from the liberal media and left-wing politicians. Instead of talking about issues on which there is general disagreement with many younger voters, we should be making the case for economic freedom and opportunity.

The poll results show that most students believe the United States is on the wrong track. Not surprisingly, President Biden’s approval rating among students have gone down dramatically since 2021.

A plurality of high school and college students believe Mr. Biden is not mentally fit to handle being president. Fewer than 4 in 10 students are confident that the president is an effective leader when it comes to the needs of young people.

A majority of students want to see Mr. Biden face a challenge from serious candidates in a primary cycle with other Democrats. A solid majority — 68% of high school students and 74% of college students — support a maximum age for presidential candidates.

At the same time, a strong majority of conservative and Republican students agree that all Republican presidential candidates should participate in the debates. This validates my contention that it is important for former President Donald Trump to attend the first debate to talk not only to primary voters but also to younger voters about the future.

Remember, many new voters in 2024 were 10 years old in 2016. They need to hear from the candidates to help counter liberal indoctrination.

The results of the nationwide poll of high school and college students conducted for Young America’s Foundation reveal significant findings about race and gender. A strong majority of students believe that allowing the use of racial quotas in the workplace and educational institutions is unfair.

Similarly, a strong majority believe that allowing athletes who were born male and identify as female to compete with biological females in girls’ and women’s sports is unfair.

Amazingly, 70% of college students and 75% of high school students believe that the government spending more than it takes in is unfair. Nearly 6 in 10 high school and college students believe the government should spend less money than it does.

This is a great reminder of the fundamental truth of something my grandmother told me decades ago: Don’t spend money you don’t have.

For years, I have argued that young people are driven by authenticity and fairness. The results of this poll show that students are driven by their perception of fairness.

Conservatives need to make a moral case for our positions. Too often, we think and talk with our heads, while the left thinks and talks with their hearts. We need to think with our heads but speak from the heart. We have a moral case to make on economic freedom, racial equality and athletic competition.

Candidates appearing in the first presidential primary debate next week in Milwaukee should recognize that the audience will include far more than just Republican primary voters. Many young people will tune in for their first real exposure to a discussion of our country’s major issues. The results of this nationwide poll of younger voters offer the candidates a path to success.

Democratic candidates for the Senate won the youth vote by 40 points or more in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Republicans lost two of those races and came close in the third. Democratic candidates won less than 20 points in Ohio, Florida and North Carolina. We can make inroads with young people.

Conservatives need to reach out now to younger voters.

Talk about fairness — especially regarding the economy — and be authentic. Share stories instead of arguments. Talk with young people, not at them. And be prepared to have a real conversation.

Our country is counting on it.

• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.

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