Forward-looking political scientists and politicians have for some time debated the ultimate impact of America’s two youngest generations – the plurals (Generation Z) and Millennials – on the nation’s partisan future. With these two generations expected to become the majority of the American electorate by the end of the decade, election results and a series of recent data from Pew research provide an increasingly compelling answer. Younger voters are expected to be a source of electoral strength for Democrats for a few more years.
Let’s start with the simple fact that, as Figure 1 illustrates, millennials are the largest generation in America today and the largest in American history.
Population of current American generations
As Figure 2 illustrates, Millennials and some of their younger siblings will make up the majority of the electorate in just six years.
Millennials and plurals will make up the majority of potential voters by 2028 – more than sixty percent by 2036
Research on individual voting behavior over time supports the idea that early partisan predilections persist throughout an individual’s life. Republicans must take action now to reverse these trends among young people before they become an insurmountable barrier to GOP electoral success, and Democrats must focus on Plurals and Millennials in the coming years to take advantage of the The opportunity presented by this emerging majority.(1)
Young Americans are tilting the electoral playing field heavily in favor of the Democrats, making it very likely that the “plus/minus” line in American politics will be 45, or even 50, for at least the rest of this decade.
For example, the results of the 2022 midterm elections surprised many who did not believe in them. Harvard Institute of Politics (IOP) polls that showed young people were very enthusiastic about voting in the 2022 midterms. Their influence allowed Democrats to achieve almost every victory. national battlefield competition and increase their majority in the US Senateas shown in Figures 3 and 4.
The 2022 Democratic advantage among young voters in battleground states allowed Democrats to regain control of the Senate
And although Democrats failed to maintain their majority in the House of Representatives, the preference for Democratic candidates among members of the pluralist and millennial generations limited the size of the new Republican majority to just five votes.
America’s youngest generations voted overwhelmingly Democratic for Congress in the 2022 midterm elections
What should worry Republicans even more is that this Democratic advantage, at least in the 2022 midterm elections, was particularly strong among African American and Hispanic voters under 45. Despite a large Republican vote among Hispanics in places like Florida, young minority voters supported Democrats by substantial margins. White voters ages 18 to 29 also supported Democratic congressional candidates over Republican candidates by a margin of 58% to 40%, validating IOP’s pre-election predictions, as shown in Figure 5.
Democratic advantage among young voters holds true among major racial and ethnic groups
Although the impact of Millennial and Plural preferences for Democratic candidates among racial and ethnic voters varies depending on congressional districts and the nature of each state’s population, when it comes to voters in under 45, and particularly among voters of this age, their presence can be felt in every neighborhood across the country. See Figure 6.
Young female voters voted overwhelmingly for Democrats in 2022
Linear projections of past trends are never definitive, especially in politics, and a single election does not determine a trend. But young people now vote decidedly Democratic, and in increasing numbers, in every election since Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. In the 2018 midterm elections, more than two-thirds (68%) of voters under the age of 45 voted for Democratic congressional candidates and in 2020, 58% voted for President Biden.
The growing prominence of the millennial and plural generation brings three challenges that Republicans will face if they want to win national elections in the future.
First, young voters overwhelmingly support Democratic Party positions on issues like abortion and inclusion that Republicans traditionally oppose. Even worse for the future of the Republican Party, a majority of young Republican voters are closer to the Democratic Party’s positions on these cultural issues than to their own party’s position. However, the Republican generational gap is not significant on economic issues. To take advantage of this potential opening to younger voters, the Republican Party should abandon its current emphasis on “wokeness” and instead address the nation’s economic malaise. See Figure 7.(2)
Second, this age divide on social issues within the Republican electorate is accompanied by a narrowing gender gap among younger voters, further unifying Democrats and making it more difficult for Republican candidates of macho types to broaden their appeal. Fifty-five percent of white voters under 45 voted Democratic in 2022, as did 52% of young white women. As Figure 8 illustrates, more than nine in ten African-American voters, both men and women, under the age of 45 also voted Democratic in the midterms. Among Hispanics under 45, both men and women, two-thirds voted for Democratic congressional candidates. To the extent that a gender gap still exists, in 2022 it is concentrated among older white and Hispanic voters. As plural and millennial voters make up a larger and larger share of the American electorate, the gender gap in American politics is likely to shrink faster than the ozone layer.
Democratic advantage among plural and millennial voters extends across all racial and ethnic groups with minimal gender gap
If these two challenges weren’t enough, Republicans’ reliance on broadcast media, such as Fox News and talk radio, means their message isn’t even being heard by Plurals and Millennials who live in an entirely new information ecosystem. different, built around social networks, notably TikTok and YouTube.(3) Figure 9 shows how young voters differ when it comes to trust in the media.
Reaching young voters requires the use of social media (plurals and millennials prefer to use digital for information and trust it more as a source of information)
Of course, the Democratic Party is not without difficulty adapting its strategies to an electorate dominated by younger voters. The older, embedded media commentators, pollsters, and campaign consultants who make up the Democratic “permanent campaign complex” are often slow to learn new tricks and less familiar with how to communicate with younger voters using their preferred platforms to talk about their political priorities. . For example, even in 2022, Democratic Senate candidates in swing states like Colorado and Ohio recoiled in horror from President Biden’s proposal to cancel some of both generations’ student debt, even though one of the youngest voters’ priorities makes college more affordable, even free – on a par with preserving reproductive rights and fighting climate change.
If Democrats don’t run campaigns focused on voters under 45, regardless of where they live and regardless of their current policy preferences, they could not only lose their chance at a landslide victory in 2024, but also potentially losing the allegiance of the vast and growing majority of Americans. voters for decades to come.
(1) Historical analysis of political behavior from the 1950s, The American voter, reported that more than nine in ten American adults identify with or lean toward one of the major U.S. political parties. For the vast majority, this identification was formed when they were young adults and remained constant throughout their lives. (Campbell, et al. 1960. The American voter. New York: Wiley). In a replication of the original work, The American voter revisited, the researchers interviewed a panel of respondents at four different times over a period of seventeen years (1965-1982). In this research, more than eight in ten Americans identified with or leaned toward one of the parties and more than eight in ten identified with the same party at the end of the period as at the beginning. More recently, in 2000 and 2004, a similar panel showed an equivalent level of party identification and stability of this identification over time. (Lewis-Beck, et al. 2008. The American Voter Revisited. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press).
(2) Bench Respondents were asked to indicate which of the two statements came closest to their own opinions. The statements read: “America’s openness to people around the world is essential to who we are as a nation” versus “If America is too open to people around the world, we risk to lose our identity as a nation. » The numbers on the graph represent those who chose the first statement. For the second question, respondents were presented with the following statement: “In general, to what extent do white people have advantages in society that black people do not have. » The bars on the graph represent those who indicated “A lot” or “Quite a lot” in response to this statement. For the third, the procedure was similar to that of the first set of busbars. Respondents were asked to indicate which of the two statements came closest to their own opinions. The statements read: “The barriers that once made it more difficult for women to progress than men have now largely disappeared” versus “There are significant barriers that make it more difficult for women to progress than men.” The numbers on the graph represent those who chose the second statement.