IRI Event: As “Citizens of the World,” Millennial Voters Want a New Kind of Politician

Yesterday, IRI hosted a panel event in Cleveland tackling the challenge of center-right political parties engaging millennial voters.

The event featured conversations with pollster Frank Luntz, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-WI), Swedish parliamentary candidate Sarah Skyettedal and Brazilian Member of Parliament Efraim Filho.

Frank Luntz offered a dramatic illustration of the globalized values of this age group: “Almost a third of millennials see themselves as citizens of the world,” he noted. “Either they don’t see borders, or they don’t want to see borders.” Mr. Luntz argued that trends in millennial political thought—including support for “socialism” in one form or another— pose a “significant challenge” for the GOP in attracting young voters.

Whereas American millennials have become increasingly receptive to the idea of socialism, in South American youth have led the charge away from economic centralization towards liberalization. “In Brazil, young people organized all the demonstrations against corruption, economic mismanagement and populism,” observed Efraim Filho. “The opposition politicians would show up, but [young people] were leading the way.”

Congressman Sean Duffy argued that part of the reason conservatives failed to gain traction with young people has been their absence in much of popular culture, though he acknowledged that social media has enabled conservatives to “get around the gatekeepers” in the media. Sarah Skyettedal echoed his sentiment, noting the importance of “connecting politics with feelings,” which she argued left-wing politicians do more successfully than conservatives.

The event was inspired by IRI’s Generation Democracy initiative, a new global youth network that seeks to equip young people with the leadership skills necessary to become the next generation of democratic actors in their communities and countries. “For the sake of the world, we desperately need young people to be inside the tent and engaged. We need to tap into their dreams, their energy and their potential,” said IRI president Ambassador Mark Green. He commented, “This wide-ranging discussion has provided timely insights into the motivations driving millennial voters around the world—something politicians of all stripes must take on board.”

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