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Do Conservatives have a problem with millennial voters?

A Conservative think tank is studying what could be the party's biggest challenge in 2019.

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer stands with dairy farmer Melinda Foster Marshall, left, and Vimy Brewing Company co-founder Kevin Sirko, right, at a press conference earlier this year.

Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer stands with dairy farmer Melinda Foster Marshall, left, and Vimy Brewing Company co-founder Kevin Sirko, right, at a press conference earlier this year.

One of the largest conservative think tanks in the country is trying to help right-wing parties appeal to millennial voters—  a demographic pollsters say they could have a major problem relating to. 

Last week, PressProgress, a website launched by the Broadbent Institute, revealed the Manning Centre has raised money this past summer for research into millennial voters and how to better align Conservative Party policies to reach them.

John Whittaker, a policy analyst with the centre, said they wanted to find ways to better engage with younger voters, who are going to be a major force in the next election.

He said they generally found younger voters don’t identify with any one political party, but they believe there are some conservative values that can align with that age bracket.

“We found that while millennials are not to warm to traditional party labels, the underlying values—such as a commitment to free-enterprise and a higher trust in yourself, for example—actually indicated some concurrence with conservative values,” he said in an email.

David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data, said conservative parties, provincially or federally, are going to have to find a way to reach this demographic better than they do.

“You don’t need to win millennials to win elections, but if you lose badly among this group it’s going to be hard to win.”

Coletto said it makes sense that the Manning Centre is doing research on this front. In 2019, he predicts they will be the largest pool of available voters and Coletto said so far they’re not winning over that demographic.

“The Conservatives have basically moved up and down anywhere between 20 and 25 per cent of millennials.”

In polling Abacus released last week, the Conservatives were the clear choice for only one age group of Canadians: those 60 and over.

Coletto said the polling his firm has done shows two important issues for parties looking to attract younger voters. The first is a party has to be seen as tolerant to people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations.

The other is climate change, which he said the Conservatives are not currently addressing.  

“The federal Conservatives I don’t think right now have a meaningful narrative around climate change.”

The stakes are high, Coletto argued, because if millennials keep voting at the levels they did in 2015, their influence will only grow.

“Millennials will dominate everything, politics included, for the next 35 years, in the same way baby boomers have dominated for the last 35 years.”

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