Young Americans have long favored the Democratic Party. This helped drive President Barack Obama to victory in 2008. But thousands of young voters on the opposite side of the political spectrum have become a force for one 2012 Republican presidential hopeful, Ron Paul. .
Twenty-three-year-old Brian Parker is like many other young Washingtonians. He is a college-educated, professional interested in politics.
But his political views differ from the majority of young voters these days. He leads a group of Ron Paul supporters. Like his candidate, Parker is a Libertarian, or someone who favors individual freedom and very limited government.
“I like Ron Paul because he is the only candidate that seems to really know what he talking about and has the best interest of our nation at heart,” Parker said.
Paul, at 76, is the oldest presidential candidate, but he got the largest share of the youth vote in the early Republican presidential nominating contests. And in a national Gallup Poll, nearly a quarter of Republican voters ages 18-34 support him. "It's growing by leaps and bounds. And it's going to continue to grow by leaps and bounds. And we will restore freedom to this country," Paul said.
For English teacher Christine Austen and other Paul supporters, his message of personal freedom resonates.
“Ron Paul is the person who stands for freedom and speaks about it. Our party, as a Republican party, has gone so far from that point that he is the only one talking about it anymore,” Austin said.
They also like his anti-war and anti-tax ideas. So who are these young supporters who might not have paid attention to Paul's presidential run in 2008?
"Well, a lot of people ask that question and I am not sure that we researchers actually know that for sure," said Gallup Poll editor-in-chief Frank Newport.
He says one characteristic of young people could explain Paul's popularity. “So one overarching kind of reason is that young people have always kind of liked a rebel, someone who is against the system and I think that may be part of his appeal."
But Parker says these Paul supporters know what they are voting for. "None of them are just going to come up and say they love liberty and freedom, and they don’t really know what they are talking about. These are people that have done their research," Parker said.
And Parker and his fellow supporters believe Paul is the only Republican candidate who will truly bring change to the White House.