Among Young Voters, a Generational Shift Towards Dems
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Do voters under the age of 30 always trend more liberal and more likely to vote Democrat? Contrary to conventional wisdom, history and data say "No."
Political preferences are a product not just of lifecycle shifts but are also linked to the political climate. As Pew reviews in a recent analysis (graph above), the current generation of young voters, who came of age during the turmoil, scandal, and failures of the George W. Bush presidency, trend strongly Democrat, just as the previous generation of GenXers who grew up in the prosperous Reagan years trended Republican. Here's more from the Pew report:
In surveys conducted between October 2007 and March 2008, 58% of voters under age 30 identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identified or leaned toward the GOP. The Democratic Party's current lead in party identification among young voters has more than doubled since the 2004 campaign, from 11 points to 25 points.
In fact, the Democrats' advantage among the young is now so broad-based that younger men as well as younger women favor the Democrats over the GOP -- making their age category the only one in the electorate in which men are significantly more inclined to self-identify as Democrats rather than as Republicans.
Among today's "Dotcom" generation, born after 1976, there are other important differences. As the recent book A New Engagement documents, the Dotcom generation is more likely to be inclined towards community volunteering than traditional electoral participation. And rather than a deep interest in party politics, Dotcom-ers are more likely to be engaged with social movement politics related to global issues such as human rights, fair trade, and/or the environment.
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