As the Republican presidential campaign turns to Maryland as well as other states, candidates might just skip over the University of Maryland, the largest college in the state.
“I feel like the election right now is a joke; there are not many good candidates left on the Republican side, ” said Ariana Lulli, 19, a sophomore who is studying to be a teacher. “I don’t even know who I’m going to vote for.”
Kaitlynn Motley, 20, a sophomore physiology and neurobiology major, said the only thing she applauds in the Republican Party is the refusal among some to support any of the remaining candidates.
“It shows a lot of thought into the decision,” said Motley, who said she recently switched her party affiliation to Democrat from Republican for the upcoming Maryland primary.
The sentiments are widely shared among younger voters. While crowds of 18-to-34-year-old voters flock to see Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is trailing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, fewer numbers are drawn to Republicans Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich.
“No candidate from the Republican Party has ever had a large young voters following,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement — CIRCLE — at Tufts University.
In a national poll in March, USA Today and Rock the Vote found that voters in this age group were split: Trump had 23 percent support, Marco Rubio had 18 percent, both Cruz and Ben Carson had 14 percent, and Kasich had 6 percent, Kawashima-Ginsberg said.
“Not one has captured the hearts and minds of the youth vote like Sanders has on the Democratic side,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard Institute of Politics.
“Young Republicans are so different in the way they think of most social issues,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “Our analysis of Pew Research data showed that young Republicans are left of older Republicans on most issues.”
Immigration marks the sharpest contrast. Young republicans see immigrants who are in the United States illegally as an asset to the country, whereas older Republicans tend to echo Trump’s views, Kawashima-Ginsberg said.
When Trump does win over younger voters, he wins them over with much narrower margins than he enjoys with older voters, Kawashima-Ginsberg said.
During the March 15 primaries, for example, Trump didn’t win the majority of younger voters vote in any of the states, though he did take a plurality in Florida and Illinois, Kawashima-Ginsberg said.
“The percentage-point difference between Trump and the runner-ups Rubio and Cruz, respectively, in both of those cases were quite small,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. In Florida, Trump won 36 percent, compared to second-place Rubio’s 34 percent. In Illinois, the New York businessman won 32 percent, compared to second-place Cruz’s 29 percent.
“Trump does have an outsider appeal to many of them, while Cruz is now the establishment guy — relative to Trump, anyway,” Kawashima-Ginsberg said. “So, young conservatives have a really hard choice to make – either go with someone whose value propositions oppose at least some of their belief, or go with another ideological extreme who has now lost the ‘outsider’ appeal because he’s the only viable party-backed candidate left.”
Motley’s biggest issue is abortion rights.
“Trump doesn’t really respect women and no matter what someone’s ideas are, if the basic lack of respect for a person is there, I would have trouble supporting them,” Motley said.
Dan Rosenberry, 19, a sophomore computer engineering major, dislikes all of the candidates, particularly Trump.
“Trump is so ridiculously racist and promotes an unhealthy culture for the country,” Rosenberry said, referring to Trump’s remarks on Mexican immigrants and call for a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States.
Fifty-six percent of millennials polled nationally by the Harvard Institute of Politics in December said they prefer a Democrat to a Republican.
Della Volpe said he does not see any Republican candidate gaining significant support among younger voters in the next few months.
Rosenberry, who identifies as a moderate Republican, said he finds Cruz to be too conservative and although he said he doesn’t know much about Kasich, he finds him to be the most desirable of the three.
Will Armstrong, 22, a senior finance major, agrees with Rosenberry.
“While I don’t agree with all of what Obama says, he looks the part — very presidential — and I don’t see that in Ted Cruz or Donald Trump at all,” said Armstrong, who said he identifies as fiscally conservative and socially liberal.
With a win in Ohio, Armstrong said he hopes that Kasich garners more attention.
“Hopefully Kasich will become a little more marketable and come out of the shadows,” Armstrong said. “But I’m not sure if he still has time to do so.”
Jess Nocera: 202-383-6022, @JessMNocera