Party-specific campus groups are on the decline, while issue-based political groups are gaining steam, according to a new report from Campus Labs, a tech company that serves higher education.

Will Miller, who authored the report, found that party-based organizations comprise 3,184 clubs on campus, while organizations that focus on specific issues comprise 13,741 clubs. Miller concluded that students are “more likely to engage with non-electoral activities tied to issues of personal interest and concern than traditional political activities, such as voting or aligning with a party.”

This probably comes as a surprise to most, as the highly anticipated midterm elections are just around the corner. What is drawing students to issue-based groups instead of party-based groups during such a critical election?

Miller explains that by focusing on issues, “students are able to join with like-minded individuals to pursue gains in an area of personal interest.” I don’t completely agree with this explanation — students can often find this type of like-minded comradery and fulfillment of personal interest in political clubs.

However, it is much easier to unite students with shared ideals than to rally them around an inconsistent party.

As a student, I was part of the College Republicans, which happened to be the only conservative club on my campus. Despite this affiliation, I rarely got involved in local party canvassing efforts or fundraisers. Instead, I found fulfillment in year-round student activism. Whether it was the anticipation of bringing conservative speakers to a liberal campus, putting up a Free Speech Wall, or even plastering the halls and stairwells with conservative posters, I felt like I was making more of an impact with my liberal and agnostic peers by promoting the ideas of conservatism than by encouraging them to join the GOP.

Principles are much easier to defend than people. Every politician has flaws and is susceptible to error. The campus is the ultimate battlefield of ideas, and for any ideology to be successful, the argument must be won.

While the Left frequently tries to tear apart the other side through character assassination, often with false accusations, conservatives are typically more successful in building a movement of young leaders by providing them with a foundation of solid, fact-based principles. The Left has attempted to take a page from this playbook, but it’s pretty difficult to build a foundation on quicksand.

While conservative groups like Turning Point USA have had immense success in their campus outreach efforts in recent years, Young America’s Foundation (my former employer) has been reaching students with conservative ideas since the 1960s. Their nonpartisan mission has been integral to their success, and their strategy has been a model for other groups targeting college students.

“Since our founding, [Young America’s Foundation] has emphasized principles over politics,” said YAF Spokesman Spencer Brown. “The ideas of individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values are timeless principles that made — and continue to make — America great. Young people have always rallied around these ideas when they get the chance to hear them.”

This kind of impact will endure long after the election cycle. As President Ronald Reagan once said, “There’s a flickering spark in us all which, if struck at just the right age, can light the rest of our lives.”

Brendan Pringle (@BrendanPringle) is writer from California. He is a National Journalism Center graduate and formerly served as a development officer for Young America's Foundation at the Reagan Ranch.