Most of the polling I see about the future of U.S. politics is a good news-bad news story depending on the party you root for. My post on Monday was good news for Republicans. But not a recent analysis of the youngest voters, sometimes known as “Gen Z.”
According to a study of exit polling numbers from the 2020 election by the Roper Center, analyzed by John Della Volpe of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, Gen Z voters have reliably favored Democrats in all recent presidential election years, and that advantage surged in 2020, when voters aged 18-29 voted for the Democratic Biden-Harris ticket by a whopping 60-36 percent – the second-best margin for the Democrats among younger voters over at least the last six election cycles. (Barack Obama did even better in 2008.)
And those Gen Z-ers who helped Biden win will be eligible to vote for a long time, although there’s no guarantee that they will remain loyal to the Democrats. That’s the rub, or at least one of the rubs. As I mentioned, the youngest demographic has been carried by the Democrats in every election since 2000 (although not by 24 percentage points), but obviously many voters turn into Republicans as they age or Republicans wouldn’t have won three of the past five presidential races.
But, back on the bright side for the Dems, the young demographic has shown a strong rise in turnout over those past five presidential elections, from a low of 33 percent among the under-30 eligible voters in 1996, to a big, if not completely steady rise to 53 percent in 2020.
Della Volpe listed five events that moved younger voters into the Democratic camp, at least in the most recent election: The millennial-led Occupy Wall Street movement against inequality; Donald Trump on the ticket the past two cycles; the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting tied to feelings about gun control; the George Floyd killing (and the iPhone recording of it by 17-year-old Gen Z-er); and teen-ager Greta Thunberg’s influence through the climate movement.
Looking at history, it would be a surprise if each new cohort of the youngest eligible voters keep participating at an increasing rate.
But the graph of rising participation by 18-29-year olds and their solid if variable blue lean should scare the beeswax out of Republicans looking ahead, as should the full writeup by Axios of the Roper Center poll numbers described above and accompanying graph by Axios, both of which are viewable here.