I don’t want to be a broken record on this but I continue to believe people are underestimating the potential effects of generational change on American politics. The data on generational cleavages in attitudes and voting behavior continues to accumulate and, if anything, is getting stronger as Millennials have fully entered the electorate and as the oldest part of the Gen Z cohort has reached voting age.
The New York Times recently had an interesting article along these lines. Leaving aside the interviews with actual teenagers in the article, which are intriguing but not exactly hard data, they do cite some real data which makes the point.
“Election data suggests that the youngest voters are supporting Democrats, and surveys of teenagers not yet old enough to vote reveal them to be anxious about the current state of the country and likely to embrace liberal views.
Over all, 59 percent of people 18 to 24 say they’re Democrats, compared with 33 percent who say they’re Republicans, according to an Upshot analysis of Pew Research Center data over the last year. Even young people who self-identify as Republicans, another Pew survey found, say they hold more liberal views than older Republicans on a wide range of issues — including race relations, the causes of climate change and the involvement of government in people’s lives. The youngest Republican voters who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 were the most likely to abandon Mr. Trump in 2016.
The youngest white voters are more evenly split between parties. About half of whites ages 18 to 24 say they’re Republicans. They favored Mr. Trump in the presidential election, but those who turned out in the midterm elections very narrowly backed Democrats, according to preliminary data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. And only 39 percent of 18-to-24-year-old whites approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, the Pew data shows.
Also, this next generation (those born after the mid-1990s, the so-called Generation Z) will be the first in which nearly half of the electorate is nonwhite — a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.
“Republicans are in trouble,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster who has written a book on millennial voters. Election results show millennials holding onto their Democratic views as they age, she said. “It would not surprise me if the problem is worse, not better, with Gen Z, given the moment we’re in.”
I have no quibble with these data except I believe white 18-24 year olds in 2018 were probably strongly not narrowly Democratic, My reading of the Catalist final data is that white 18-24 year olds were probably around +20 nationally for the House. So that’s not “narrowly”.
Anyway, these data are a big deal. A really big deal. States of Change estimates are that in 2016, GOP voters were 19 percent Millennials and Gen Z and 56 percent from the Baby Boomer and Silent generations. Flash forward to 2036, holding voting and turnout patterns constant, and we would expect the Republican coalition to be 47 percent Millennials and Gen Z and just 22 percent Boomers and Silent. For the Democrats, the analogous figures are 30/44 in 2016 and 59/15 in 2036. These are massive changes, especially given the significantly more liberal cast of the Millennial and Gen Z generations when compared to the oldest cohorts. And that will deeply effect both parties and the politics of the country as a whole.
You can count on it.