| Daily Data Point: Young Republicans Leave Party During Trump Era
by David Byler
Are Republicans driving away young voters? Ever since Barack Obama won the presidency with strong support from the youngest Americans, some on the right have worried that their party is out of touch with millennials.
And a new study from Pew Research Center does little to alleviate those concerns. Pew tracked the partisan leanings of a large number of Americans at various points between December 2015 and March 2017. They found that although the vast majority of voters stuck with the party they originally identified with, a small chunk from both parties switched sides. Most notably, 23 percent of those ages 18-29 who at least leaned toward the Republican Party in late 2015 either leaned toward or identified with the Democratic Party by 2017.
While any political party is happy to win over new voters, the real question is whether the new converts stick with their new party.
Data from Yair Ghitza and Andrew Gelman (made interactive at The Upshot) suggests that some of them might. They show political events early in young adulthood powerfully shape voters’ baseline partisanship for the rest of their lives. In other words, someone who was in their late teens and early 20s during a successful Republican presidency might be more likely to vote for a Republican later in life than someone who came of age when a popular Democrat was in power. In other words, the modern GOP might be driving away young voters at the exact moment when their partisanship begins to cement.
That being said, Ghitza and Gelman’s research focuses mostly on white voters. Millennials, as a group, are racially diverse, so these conclusions would only apply to part of the population. Moreover, politics is fluid and the Pew data (while extremely interesting) covers less than two years. It’s impossible to say what else Democrats and Republicans will do to lose or gain young voters as time goes on.
But for now it’s interesting to track the opinions of every demographic subgroup as they evolve and watch how the party coalitions shape national politics.