WASHINGTON — Lucy Lohrmann became president of the American University College Republicans as a sophomore. She’s been a passionate Republican since middle school, but she’s not confident the GOP can win over others of her generation.

As president of the AUCR, Lohrmann came to realize that the message her peers are getting from the Republican Party doesn’t gibe with the Millennial generation’s views on social issues such as marriage equality and immigration reform. Even within her small conservative group’s membership, agreeing on a unified message is difficult.

“Often times it is hard to get up there and talk about a unified message or the Republican Party platform when eighty or ninety percent of your membership may not agree with that one line in the Republican Party platform,” Lorhmann said.

“But I think that’s something that the Republican Party on the national level needs to work on. They have to include the Millennial generation somehow,” she said, “and the Millennial generation’s opinions are much different than like my parents who are part of the Reagan era.”

Only 17 percent of young Americans, aged 16 to 33, identify as Republicans, according 2014 Pew Research Center survey. Twenty-seven percent identify as Democrats and a full 50 percent identify as independents. Pew also found that 57 percent of Millennials believe they have become more liberal on social issues over the course of their lives. The split was 48-42 – liberal v. conservative — on political issues.

Maggie Cleary, chairwoman of the D.C. Federation of College Republicans, agreed with Lorhmann that the deep ideological divide within the young members of her organization made it difficult for the group to advocate for any one cause.

“If you’re a Democrat, generally you have a pretty standard ticket of what you believe,” Cleary said, “Whereas, especially in our generation, the Republican Party, we run the gamut in members of D.C. Fed from people who are pro-choice and pro-gay marriage, like actively pro-gay marriage, to people who are very, very pro-life and very anti-gay marriage.”

The D.C. Federation of College Democrats focuses more on advocacy than the Republican Federation, with little internal disagreement. Jamil Hamilton, vice chairman of the D.C. Federation of College Democrats said that the group gets involved with one political issue per semester.

“When we’re not campaigning, we want to do student advocacy,” Hamilton said, “Right now it’s immigration, later on we’re going to work on D.C. student rights.”

The College Democrats also has a significantly higher membership than its Republican counterpart. At Georgetown University, the College Democrats is the largest organization on campus, Hamilton said. When the Federation organized a campaign trip last year to Ohio – a so-called political battleground state –it filled three buses with at least 50 volunteers per bus.

“I think we’re half the size of College Dems,” said Maggie Cleary. “At Georgetown at least, they have a listserv of 2,000 people.” Cleary estimated that there were 3,000 students in the entirety of the D.C. Federation of College Republicans, which includes Georgetown University, Catholic University, George Washington University and American University.

Ron Christie, a political strategist who served as a policy advisor to President George W. Bush, said the Republican Party needs to shift its focus away from social issues to attract young voters.

“I am one of those fellows who thinks we should focus on what we are for, as opposed to what we are against,” Christie said, “Rather than try to tear someone down, or rather than to try to say this person isn’t quote ‘right’ on social issues, I’m more interested in what we’re for.”

Christie, 44, said although there appears to be a lot of disagreement within the party, the disputes are about a small set of ideals. If Republicans could focus on what they agree on, he said, they could present a much more united front.

Republicans should target young people on economic grounds by highlighting the increasing national debt and the need for entitlement reform, according to Christie.

“I think that when you look at issues that are important to young people, it’s talking about the future,” Christie said. “Can we still honor the promises that were made to my parents and your parents with those areas of entitlement reform and the national debt?”

But, Christie said, it’s also necessary to have an optimistic and positive message. Young people want to know what you’re for and what you’re going to do. They don’t want to just hear attacks.

Lohrmann thinks Republicans should start promoting the GOP economic platform. She said the party doesn’t know how to talk about social issues, so its leaders should stop trying.

“The Republican Party needs to make economic issues relevant to young people and they haven’t done a good job of that,” Lohrmann said. “If they can really focus on that and make young people understand… how fiscal conservatism is the way to go, then I think they’re golden. But until they work on that, I’m not so sure.”

The GOP economic platform promotes reducing the size of the government to counteract the rising national debt, lowering taxes and repealing the Affordable Care Act. For young people, Republicans encourage entrepreneurship and strengthening small business incentives. The party advocates hard work and individual responsibility, which Lohrmann says hits a chord with other Millennials.

Alex Smith, chairwoman of the College Republican National Committee, disagreed that diversity of opinion on social issues was a sticking point for potential young Republicans.

Smith said fostering discussion over social issues gives young Republicans the cred to enter debates in the national party over health care, economics and national security.

“It gives us the credibility in the party to go ahead and do that because the debate is taking place in our own party on these issues,” Smith said. “Whereas if you look to the other side, there is no debate, it’s more of a myopic form of leadership. And I think that young people are drawn to debate at the end of the day.”

Christie’s advice to Republican politicians is to start listening to the voters instead of talking at them.

“In Washington politicians tend to appear [in public] if they’re in trouble or they appear if it could be a tight race,” Christie said, “But what they need to do is show up right after the election… sit back and listen and let people tell you what’s on their minds and tell you what is upsetting them as well as what they think the government’s doing right.”