In the 2018 election – the midterms of Donald Trump’s presidency – turnout among young voters surged. Nearly twice as many people in their late 20s and early 30s voted that year as they did at midterm four years earlier. And they have strongly backed Democratic candidates, helping the party regain control of Congress.
At the time, it was unclear whether young adults’ new political engagement would last beyond Trump’s presidency. So far, however, he has — and it stands as one of the biggest stories in American politics and a major boon to the Democratic Party.
After each election, data analysts at Catalist, a progressive research company, release a post-mortem report based on months of analysis of election results, voter records and other sources. A central theme of the latest report, covering the midterms of 2022, was that “Gen Z and Millennial voters had exceptional levels of turnout,” as Catalist experts wrote. In the 14 states where elections were heavily contested last year, turnout among young voters increased further compared to 2018.
This chart, by my colleague Ashley Wu, offers a nice way to see the trends:
Since 2014, the turnout of people born before 1950 has declined, mainly because more have died or been unable to vote. (Experts euphemistically refer to this dynamic as “voting out.”) Turnout among middle-aged people has increased, and turnout among younger voters has increased even more sharply.
Older Americans still vote at higher rates than younger Americans, but the gap has narrowed significantly over the past two decades.
fear, not love
For what? Many young voters have become more politically active because they fear for the country’s future. Those on the left — who are a majority of young voters — worry about climate change, abortion access, Republican Party extremism and more. Those on the right worry about secularization, political correctness, illegal immigration, etc.
“What seems to be driving young voters to the polls is not love, but anger,” wrote Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report.
Contrary to conventional wisdom, young voters in US history have not automatically been liberal. In 1984, Americans under 30 strongly supported the re-election of Ronald Reagan. In 2000, they were almost evenly split between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
It’s true that people often become a bit more conservative as they get older (and millennials follow this pattern, as my colleague Nate Cohn explained). But the most important factor is that generations tend to have distinct ideologies. People are shaped by the political zeitgeist during their teenage years, as research by Yair Ghitza, Andrew Gelman and Jonathan Auerbach has shown.
Americans who came of age during the Depression and the New Deal, for example, leaned Democratic their entire lives. Those who grew up during the Reagan era (many of whom are Gen Xers) lean to the right. Over the past few decades, major news events, including the Iraq War, the financial crisis, the presidency of Barack Obama, and the chaos of the presidency of Trump, seem to have created a progressive generation.
For four consecutive national elections dating back to 2014, Democrats have won at least 60% of the vote among 18-29 year olds. It’s the longest streak of hits since at least the 1970s, when Catalist data began.
The model offers reason for Democratic optimism. Millennials and Generation Z are increasingly becoming part of the electorate, while older, more conservative generations are gradually leaving the electorate. Even in the short term, age dynamics matter: A Republican will have a slightly harder time winning the presidency in 2024 than in 2020. In the long term, Republicans will have a hard time winning national elections unless they may attract more Americans born since 1980. .
That said, a future period of Democratic dominance is not guaranteed. The party has other weaknesses that could eventually alienate more Millennials and Gen Z voters.
Another theme of the Catalist report is that working-class voters of all races have recently drifted to the Republican Party. Many of these less affluent voters seem bothered by the growing social liberalism of the Democratic Party. Many young voters are also unsure which party has more promising economic policies.
Those concerns help explain why Florida and Texas have remained solidly Republican, much to the disappointment of Democrats. The chart below compares the Democratic Party’s performance by class and race in the last two midterm elections when a Democrat was in the White House.
I realize that the combination of trends is complex. The Democratic leaning of Americans under 40, combined with their recent increase in voter turnout, has become a huge plus for the party. Yet not all of these voters are staunch Democrats. Many identify as independents and are more conservative than the wealthy senior officials who dominate the Democratic Party and progressive groups.
In the competitive world of American politics, Democrats are in a stronger position than Republicans among young voters, but the competition is not over.
Learn more about 2024
THE LAST NEWS
Train accident in India
She is here : Rose Zhang, 20, turned pro last Thursday. On Sunday, she picked up her first victory on the LPGA Tour, reports The Athletic.
ARTS AND IDEAS
Back to cinema
Movie theaters are trying to keep customers coming back with perks like heated lounge chairs, buttons to call servers and seats that move with the action of the movie, writes Jane Margolies. But these changes can cost you dearly: movies on extra-wide screens or in 3D cost up to $20.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook