Republicans Rising on College Campuses

Two years ago Edward Dooley called himself a "Kennedy-worshiping, stereotypical Massachusetts liberal."

Today Dooley, a sophomore at George Washington University, in Washington D.C., is active in the College Republicans and prefers the label "conservative independent."

According to a Pew Research Center study, Dooley is not alone.

The study, which analyzed voter registration among young voters, said more 18- to 29-year-olds are identifying themselves as Republicans, while fewer are registering with the Democratic Party.

Dooley campaigned heavily for Barack Obama in the 2008 election. Now he spends his time volunteering for Tim Cahill, an independent candidate for Massachusetts governor running on a fiscally conservative platform, making calls to voters and performing social media tasks.

Dooley said his political ideology shifted over the past year. Turned off by what he calls Obama's "glossy ideals" and "lack of concrete policies," he said the economy has forced him to reconsider his politics.

"I'm not the leftist I once thought I was," Dooley said.

Party in Power Takes Hit, History Shows

According to the study, two years ago young voters identified themselves more as Democrats than Republicans, 62 percent to 30 percent.

Now, a young voter is still more likely to be a Democrat, but the gap is closing. By the end of 2009, 54 percent were Democrats, while 40 percent were Republicans.

Scott Keeter, director of survey research for the Pew Research Center, said the economy is a major factor.

"This is a very classic pattern that you see in American history," Keeter said. "Every time the economy goes into a recession, the party in power is seriously hurt."

After the onset of the Great Depression in 1929, Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, defeated Herbert Hoover, a Republican, in the 1932 election.

Likewise, Democratic President Jimmy Carter's unsuccessful attempts to control inflation after the 1970s recession contributed to Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980.

Economy Important in Students' Political Choices

"You have this cycle where the economic circumstances take a toll on the party in power," Keeter said.

Rob Lockwood, the College Republican National Committee director for communications, agrees that the economy is the driving force behind the growing number of young people seeking the Republican Party.

According to Lockwood, youth unemployment is one example. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that youth unemployment reached 19.1 percent in July, the highest July rate recorded since such statistics began being recorded in 1948.

"In a time where people really care about the economy, the Democrats have shown that they have done nothing to fix it," Lockwood said.

University of North Carolina College Republicans Chair Anthony Dent said his chapter has seen its membership "skyrocket." Last year, the organization had 100 dues-paying members. Now the club has 268.

"Students who have been apathetic before are now becoming more active," said Dent said, a junior. "Voting Republican is one thing. Seeking out the College Republicans, getting involved and advocating its policies is another."

College Republicans at Ohio University are also growing. Chair Bob Kosek said that the organization's first meeting attracted 95 new members, opposed to the 25 to 30 they usually see each fall.

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