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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Low Midterm Turnout Young Voters Trending Blue

The mid term fall off of young people discussed by Ed Kilgore yesterday is a very serious concern for Democrats, all the more so in light of a new Gallup poll indicating that “Young adults — those between the ages of 18 and 29 — have typically aligned themselves with the Democratic Party, but they have become substantially more likely to do so since 2006.”
The polling data, discussed by Jeffrey M. Jones in his Gallup.com post “Young Americans’ Affinity for Democratic Party Has Grown,” are based on “yearly aggregated data from multiple day Gallup telephone polls conducted between 1993 and 2013.” Jones adds:

From 1993 to 2003, 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned to the Democratic Party, while 42% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That time span included two years in which young adults tilted Republican, 1994 and 1995, when Republicans won control of Congress. Since 2006, the average gap in favor of the Democratic Party among young adults has been 18 percentage points, 54% to 36%.
A major reason young adults are increasingly likely to prefer the Democratic Party is that today’s young adults are more racially and ethnically diverse than young adults of the past. U.S. political preferences are sharply divided by race, with nonwhite Americans of all ages overwhelmingly identifying as Democrats or leaning Democratic.
Gallup estimates that 54% of 18- to 29-year-olds are non-Hispanic white and 45% nonwhite, compared with 71% non-Hispanic white and 29% nonwhite in 1995, the first full year Gallup measured Hispanic ethnicity.
In 2013, 62% of nonwhite Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 were Democrats or Democratic leaners, while 25% were Republicans or Republican leaners. That 37-point Democratic advantage, though sizable, is slightly lower than the average 42-point advantage from 1995 through 2013.

It’s not only race that drives the blue trend, however. As Jones explains, “Young white adults, who previously aligned more with the Republican Party, have shifted Democratic. From 1995 to 2005, young whites consistently identified as or leaned Republican rather than Democratic, by an average of eight points. Since 2006, whites aged 18 to 29 have shown at least a slight Democratic preference in all but one year, with an average advantage of three points.”
Jones doesn’t offer any insights about party preferences between college-enrolled youth and those who are working in the labor force, which would be helpful for GOTV purposes. Dems should be encouraged by the trend favoring their party. But it won’t mean much if these young voters don’t show in November. Clearly, Democrats can benefit substantially from some well-targeted youth voter turnout projects.

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