President and Mrs. Obama’s appearance at Ohio State yesterday carries with it another troubling sign for their party’s prospects this year. Relying on young voters in a midterm election is like looking for a cab at 5 p.m. in the rain. You’re almost certainly going to get wet.
Political scientists argue about why U.S. voter turnout has been rising. An important part of the story seems to be that today’s under 30s — the so-called Millennial generation — are more politically interested than their predecessors, Generation X.
Millennials take a very different view of politics from older cohorts of Americans. For example, offered a choice between a government that offers higher taxes and more services, or fewer services and lower taxes, older Americans choose the lower-tax alternative.
Sixty-two percent of over 65s prefer the lower tax alternative, as do 58% of voters in the 50-64 group, and 56% of voters aged 30-49.
Under 30s prefer bigger government by a margin of 53-43.
Under 30s are more socially liberal too, and less nationalistic than over 30s.
All these numbers suggest two conclusions:
-Be very careful about projecting forward from the 2010 congressional results to the 2012 presidential vote. These elections almost occur in two different countries.
-Be very careful about assuming that Republican success in 2010 signifies that Republicans have overcome the longer-term problems that I’ve been writing about these past five years. If Republicans cannot connect better to the huge new Millennial generation, next month’s success will only be a happy interval before 2012’s grim challenges.