'Generation Opportunity' Targets Coveted Demographic on Economic Issues

Posted: Jun 15, 2011 12:01 AM
'Generation Opportunity' Targets Coveted Demographic on Economic Issues

When you talk in Facebook statistics, you're speaking the language of a young demographic.

That's what the new nonprofit Generation Opportunity aims to do, and it's telling that organization President Paul T. Conway, former chief of staff for the United States Department of Labor under Elaine Chao, includes in his pitch for the new group that it already has around 600,000 Facebook fans.

The group is designed to educate 18-29 year olds over an extended period on economic-related matters facing the country—such as the size of government, unemployment and entrepreneurialism—so that young people connect who they vote for with what's happening to their wallet.  Conway says that if a large group of Americans can realize that 10 years from now, then Generation Opportunity will have been a success.

"They understand that there's an absolute connection between the day-to-day issues that are being talked about on television, with a lot of rhetoric, and their wallet, and vise versa – the issues that impact their wallet and that they see every day, is actually a directly-relevant fact to what's going on as a country, and who they vote for," Conway said of the group's ultimate vision for the younger generation.

Conway said the concept for the organization had been tossed around for awhile, but no one had yet taken it from a vision to a reality. Conway pointed out that the energy in issue campaigns often comes from a younger demographic, but they can be ignored when it comes to policy development. Generation Opportunity plans to educate and engage 18-29 year olds through national conference calls, townhalls, social events, and its Facebook page, drawing on educational material from places like The Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, and the Government Accountability Office. The group also conducted a survey through the polling company inc/womantrend that shows where the pulse of 18-29 year olds is on economic issues: 76 percent want to see federal spending reduced; 59 percent agree the economy grows faster when government leaves businesses alone; 69 percent say the current leadership in Washington fails to serve the younger generation; and 71 percent register concern about the deficit.

Conway was upbeat about the organization during the interview, excited particularly about the Facebook numbers. The group also looks at the conversations already started on the Facebook page as positive feedback and has been talking with over 40 organizations during the creation of Generation Opportunity to make them aware of the group's mission, and that "every single organization has been quite positive about it." Conway also says that Generation Opportunity – which he emphasizes is "nonpartisan" – trumps other youth-targeted organizations when it comes to sheer numbers on Facebook.