Elise Stefanik: The Millennial Whisperer

Rep chairs first GOP taskforce hearing on millennials

Elise Stefanik

Elise Stefanik / AP

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She’s been mistaken for an intern, teased by Paul Ryan for not knowing what "Magnavox" is, and she was a fan of ’90s pop: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R., N.Y.), 30, is the voice of Republican millennials.

Stefanik on Tuesday began her duty as chairwoman for the first hearing of the Republican Policy Committee’s Taskforce on Millennials.

"This first chair meeting is all about getting to know the Millennial generation, their political demographic, and cultural attributes," Republican policy chairman Rep. Luke Messer (R., Ind.) said to the taskforce. "We want to know what makes them tick. They want their voices heard, and their ideas to be taken seriously."

Stefanik is the only female millennial and the youngest woman to serve in Congress. In an effort to educate the public on this demographic, she brought together a panel of pollsters, researchers, and authors to identify the issues that matter the most to millennials.

Data submitted to the committee by the Pew Research Center polled samples from all generations to see what political issues are top priorities. While baby boomers focused on terrorism, the economy, and social security, millennials focused on education, the economy, and jobs.

"Millennials have surpassed Gen Xers as the largest labor force in America," Stefanik said in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon. "They are concerned about the economy, massive student loan debt, and finding a high-quality job in their skill set. Hierarchal business practices don’t appeal to millennials anymore, and many resonate with bottom down growth and entrepreneurship."

In addition to concerns about employment and debt, millennials also show a general distrust of government. A poll submitted to the taskforce by the Harvard University Institute of Politics showed that only 17 percent of millennials trust Congress to do the right thing. They are skeptical of government and desire transparency.

"Millennials, unfortunately, are losing interest in public service to bring change to government," Stefanik said during the hearing. "A recent Time magazine poll found that 89 percent of millennials are not interested in running for office in the future. As members of Congress begin to retire from previous generations, it is imperative that a new generation of leaders step up to the plate."

Stefanik wants to be a role model for this generation. The 30-year-old Albany native confessed to the Free Beacon that she is a true ’90s kid: in her youth, she enjoyed shows such as Saved by the Bell and Full House, and listened to the Swedish pop group Ace Of Base. She also is active on social media and thinks it is key in gaining millennials’ trust.

"We are very impatient," Stefanik said. "Millennials have higher expectations on how organizations share information. They care about government transparency, accountability, and access. They want us to be open, even if they don’t like the message we are sharing. Many people are surprised to find that I do all my social media myself. It’s organic and gives people the opportunity to build a relationship and trust."

An analyst from the Pew Research Center identified the obstacle that Republicans will have to overcome in order to win over millennials. Forty-one percent reported that they were left-leaning or agreeing with liberal attitudes and only 15 percent claimed to have conservative views. However, other members of the panel were hopeful Republican ideals could win over the demographic.

"Millennials want elected leaders and they want someone who will stand up for them to restore economic opportunity to their generation. The political party that can brand itself as the party of entrepreneurship and innovation will win a good portion of the millennial generation," said Jared Meyer, a fellow from the Manhattan Institute, during his opening statement.

Stefanik plans to deepen the discussion and wants to understand the issues facing this generation and how the Republicans can better market their ideas.

"I’m committed to continue this conversation," Stefanik said. "This is one hearing in a series that will take a deep dive into the issues of our and my generation."