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Thousands of young conservatives unite over Trump at People's Convention in Michigan

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

First, a snapshot of younger voters. Young Americans tend to vote for Democrats. And four years ago, Joe Biden won voters under age 30 by a huge margin. But for some young conservatives, Donald Trump's style of politics is what they want for the political future. So when a few thousand of those voters got together in Detroit, NPR's Elena Moore, who covers this demographic, went there. She has this report.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ELENA MOORE, BYLINE: A man plays harmonica near a gold-painted car with a bejeweled presidential seal on the hood, in the center of it a photo of former President Trump. Eighteen-year-old Owen Caughron poses for a picture in front of it.

OWEN CAUGHRON: A really cool car, especially how it's [inaudible] Mercedes Benz as well - really cool.

MOORE: He's from Grand Rapids, Mich., and first became interested in politics back in middle school, when he got to see Trump in person.

CAUGHRON: Here I was, in a crowd, getting hear the guy who I looked up to speak. And I'm like, I'm going to be him one day.

LAUREN KERBY: My hat says, pretty girls vote Republican.

MOORE: Twenty-one-year-old Lauren Kerby doesn't hide her politics, either. So she's caught off guard when asked who she's voting for.

KERBY: I came here for a reason - obviously Trump.

MOORE: This is the People's Convention, run by Turning Point Action, the advocacy wing of Turning Point USA, one of the largest conservative organizations focused on engaging students. The conference featured a hefty lineup of Trump's political firebrands. A lot of the speeches emphasize social issues, something that resonated with many voters, including Kerby.

KERBY: People want to say, like, oh, it's so bad here, and it's so racist here, and this and that. Oh, because you don't have a bathroom for every single gender - I'm sorry. There's only two.

MOORE: Even with all the speakers and merch for sale, many are here for one reason.

DONALD TRUMP: And by this time next year, inflation will be in full retreat. Our economy will be roaring back.

MOORE: At the convention, Trump delivered his typical campaign speech.

TRUMP: By this time next year, America's borders will be shut, sealed and secure.

MOORE: Those pledges stick with many voters who appreciate Trump's isolationist push.

ELAINA LUCA: Not saying that other places don't matter, but we should matter first. When you're in a family, you make sure that your family's OK first.

MOORE: That's 21-year-old Michigan voter Elaina Luca. As a mom to two young kids, she's also concerned about rising housing prices.

LUCA: How am I supposed to get a house to raise my children and to live in when it's like, I don't want to pay for house for the rest of my life?

MOORE: These attendees are far from the only ones who see Trump as the answer to the country's problems. Booths within the convention center sell T-shirts that read, voting convicted felon 2024. It's a nod to Trump's recent guilty verdict in his hush money trial. And while some polling indicates that could hurt his chances with younger voters - not the ones here.

JAMES HART: I think everyone knows who they're going to vote for.

MOORE: That's 20-year-old activist James Hart of Tallahasse, Fla.

HART: We know Trump. We know - trust me. We know Joe Biden. We know exactly who these people are. And nothing about the conviction really changes anything for me.

MOORE: Not only are voters' minds made up, but 21-year-old Alexander Warren of Georgia is looking towards the future.

ALEXANDER WARREN: The Republican Party of old is gone. They are dead. They are clinging on for dear life. And Trump is the guy to get in and clear out the swamp, and we are excited about that.

MOORE: The support is loud here, but there's more convincing that needs to be done to make major inroads with young voters. Gen Z may have come of age under Trump, but they've largely voted against him. Still, many are undecided, and in swing states like Michigan, Trump will be going after every single vote. Elena Moore, NPR News, Detroit. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elena Moore is a production assistant for the NPR Politics Podcast. She also fills in as a reporter for the NewsDesk. Moore previously worked as a production assistant for Morning Edition. During the 2020 presidential campaign, she worked for the Washington Desk as an editorial assistant, doing both research and reporting. Before coming to NPR, Moore worked at NBC News. She is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and is originally and proudly from Brooklyn, N.Y.