The Ron Paul appeal

Nice piece by Libby Copeland in Slate that takes a look at why Ron Paul seems to have such a disproportionate appeal to young men.  She does a really nice job of linking it to Political Science research:

The notion that this year’s election is a choice between freedom (in the form of Paul) and tyranny (in the form of any other candidate) encapsulates Paul’s grand appeal to men in their late teens and 20s: He traffics in absolutes. Political scientists point out that age and newness to politics predispose young voters to a less nuanced view of the political world. They’re less likely to take the long view, less likely to have patience, less likely to spin out the implications of their political theories.

Paul is for these voters less a politician than a wise professor who has, through decades of research, gradually honed in on the simple truths that will turn our country around. By implication, his supporters are the ones who’ve educated themselves enough to know only their revered Dr. Paul has the aforementioned “answer.” In this way, the elderly politician has pulled of a kind of branding coup, tapping into the intellect and the egos of hordes of young men frustrated by this economy’s thwarting of their ambitions.

The young tend to be “more interested in simpler, more abstract and pure philosophies,” says Peter Levine, who directs Tufts University’s Circle Research center, which studies young people’s civic participation. They are less likely to have developed the kind of partisan affiliation that older voters filter their news through, so they’re more reactive, more influenced by events of the moment, political scientists say. And this hasn’t just benefited Paul—in 2008, college-aged voters swooned for Barack Obama in part because they’d spent adolescence under President Bush, who was supremely loathed by the time the last election rolled around.

I especially love this last bit, as it seems relatively true to my experience with Paul supporters:

“The Ron Paul brand is actually relatively intellectual,” Cassino says. It’s “A brand that’s about, ‘I’m smarter than you are.’ … ‘All the politicians are telling you one thing but I know better.’ ” This is the brand for those who feel different, who see themselves as a little bit brainier and more marginalized than everyone else. “If you’re playing Dungeons and Dragons, this is your poiltical movement,” Cassino says.

More so the “I’m smarter than you.”  I think the D&D bit is a bit of a cheap shot, but also pretty funny.  Ask me about my 18/00 strength Paladin.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to The Ron Paul appeal

  1. Pingback: Religion becoming a divisive issue in the Republican primary « The Proteus Experiment

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