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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Age and Generation

Does the GOP's poor showing among young voters doom it to decline? At The Guardian, Harry J. Enten has some shrewd observations on political generations:

Mitt Romney did worse across pretty much all age cohorts compared to President Bush in 2004.
Bush only won 43% of the 18-24 year-old cohort. There wasn't much of an outcry about Bush's young voter problem because he won. Two elections later, Romney won about 40% of the now 26-32 year-olds. This 3pt drop was entirely consistent with a national Republican drop of 3.5pt from Bush's 50.7% to Romney's 47.2%.
Other age groups are consistent with that effect. Bush won 53% of the then 30-44 year-old vote. This time, Romney nabbed 50% of the now 40-49 year-old cohort, which again matches the Republican drop of 3pt nationally. Same with the then 40-49 year-old vote, where Bush grabbed 54% and Romney walked away with 52% of the now 50-64 year-old cohort.
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Very well, you might say, but what about the addition of voters who turned 18 since 2004? Surely, they have tilted the electorate. Yet, the now 18-25 year-olds mostly took over for the 75-plus year-olds in 2004, who were very Democratic. That's why age cohorts who cast a ballot in 2004 and 2012 voted the same relative to national vote, even as more millennials have turned 18.
Of course, a steady parade of Democratic millennials could make hell for the Republican party. They will be replacing the 60-74 year-olds of 2004 and now 68-82 year-olds, who have been 6-8pt more Republican than the nation as whole.
The good news for Republicans is that the new 13-18 year-olds don't seem to be like today's 18-32 year-old voters. As I noted last week, the men and women college freshmen of 2012 were 4-5pt less liberal than those of 2008, which brings them closer to middle-of-the-road freshmen of the beginning of the Carter and Clinton administrations.