There are currently 17 Republicans running for president versus five Democrats, and this difference in representation is mirrored in two of UCF’s main political campus organizations.
The College Republicans report a total of 182 active members, while the College Democrats report 30 active members.
However, current College Democrats president Nikki Mariutto said this number is not including members who cannot show up to meetings, but who still participate in events.
“We have 30 active members that are hard-working, dedicated and committed students,” Mariutto said. “The important thing here is quality over quantity.”
Former College Democrats chapter president Chelsea Daley said the organization knows it has chosen the less-traveled path.
“I cannot speak specifically as to the reasons behind the College Democrats’ membership, but I know that our members are truly passionate about our cause and seek to build a better future,” said College Republicans Chairwoman Elaine Sarlo. “We work very hard to not only promote our ideals, but to welcome every interested student.”
Jonathan Knuckey, a political science professor at UCF, said although the membership numbers are much different between the two organizations, both numbers seem quite low. In fact, the two organizations combined represent 212 members — less than 1 percent of the entire UCF student body.
“These numbers might look different over time, especially once the campaign season is fully under way,” Knuckey said.
And although Florida is a swing state — one where both major political parties have similar levels of support among voters — Knuckey said he did not necessarily think it affects the clubs’ membership numbers.
“I think both groups would view Florida as competitive in 2016,” he said. “It really is a swing state, at the presidential level, so come next summer and fall, the level of activism is likely to be greater. Obama did win Florida twice, but by fairly narrow margins. Whoever the nominees are in 2016, Florida will be close again.”
Mariutto said the College Democrats work regardless to make sure every student’s vote counts.
“I think that the fact that Florida is a swing state impacts involvement greatly, but the College Democrats never rely on it for the simple fact that we cannot,” she said. “We worked hard to make sure every student got to vote. I’ve found that whenever any political-related event or news story happens, students’ interest in politics increases.
“It was the mid-term election that inspired me to get more involved, as with many other of our members. But I also find that once a person gets involved in advocating for something they believe strongly in, they don’t leave after an election.”
Sarlo said with the 2016 election season quickly approaching, she expects to see more members joining the College Republicans, especially due to the large number of GOP candidates currently running.
“I would attribute this also to the fact that the White House is currently under Democrat control and so many students in the Republican Party understand how imperative it is to change that this election cycle,” Sarlo said. “We do see involvement increase as elections draw closer.
“However, we typically have a strong base of involved members in non-election seasons as well.”
Additionally, both groups are expecting to grow their organizations even further in the coming weeks as students are exploring the various RSO opportunities across campus.
Mariutto said some of the issues the College Democrats are most concerned with this year include “Getting Out The Vote” on campus, student loans and keeping guns off of campus.
It will continue its partnership with organizations such as UCF’s chapters of the National Organization for Women, Voices for Planned Parenthood and the Secular Student Alliance.
For the College Republicans, “recruiting, training and mobilizing college-aged students to win elections and advocate for conservative ideals” are among its top priorities, according to the College Republicans National Committee website.
It will also be partnering with student organizations such as Hillel, Knights for Israel and Christians United for Israel.
“We are already deeply involved in the 2016 campaign trail, and we will work toward ‘Get Out The Vote’ and voter registration in the beginning months of the school year,” Daley said.
The College Democrats hold its general meeting every Tuesday at 5 p.m. in the Student Union, and the College Republicans meet at the same place at 7 p.m.
Lauren Konkol is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.