Young Voters in this Election and the Future

This diary is a bit of a follow-up to my previous one titled Young Conservatives and the Future of Americain which I discussed the role of young conservative voters in our nation and the unique challenges they face.

Writing that post got me thinking even more about the current state of America’s youth, and how my generation will be impacting the future of this nation. I did a little research on the topic to see if there were polls conducted recently that have to do with young adults’ political views. I was a little surprised that there weren’t more recent polls and surveys conducted concerning this topic, but I did find a fairly comprehensive survey that deals with 18- to 29- year olds and their attitudes towards politics. The age range is a bit bigger than I was searching for, but I still found some interesting results.

The survey, conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, asked the question, “Which party do you prefer win the 2016 campaign for president?” Here’s how they responded when asked the question in Fall 2015 and again in Spring 2015:


This is essentially the result I would expect. Young people, as a group, tend to be more liberal. It’s also interesting that the support for a Republican president went down by 4% between the Spring and Fall of 2015, and support for a Democrat president rose by 1%. What happened between the Spring and Fall of 2015 that would cause this drop? It probably has something to do with Trump’s rise to prominence and popularity during that time. Many young conservatives, like me, were seriously concerned when Trump displayed such a strong following early on. Given the situation we now face, our concerns are completely justified.

Included in the Harvard survey report is a breakdown by demographic regarding the Democrat-Republican presidential preference. The following is reported in terms of Democrat-Republican advantage:

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There’s a lot of interesting info to be found here. First, I found it surprising that the support for a Democratic nominee for president was 6% lower among the 18-24 age group than the 25-34 age group in the Spring of 2015. However, the support for a Democratic nominee went up a whole 7% among the 18-24 group between Spring and Fall. Like I mentioned before, this is likely due to discouragement among young voters regarding the Republican presidential field. Perhaps it also has to do with young voters moving over to support Bernie Sanders due to his “free-college-and-other-cool-free-stuff-for-all” message. The (albeit false) promise of free college and no student debt is simply too enticing for many young voters to pass up.

This survey was based on the premise of supporting of a Republican/Democrat president. While the Republican/Democrat distinction is often viewed as nearly synonymous with the conservative/liberal distinction, I think that this election cycle is going to shake things up quite a bit in terms of party identification. Frankly, this election has been so complex and messy that I really don’t know exactly how it will permanently effect the makeup of the electorate come the months after November.

Allow me to demonstrate the absurdity to which this election has boiled down. If you would have asked conservative voters back in 2014 if there was any conceivable way they could support Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee in the 2016 election, imagine the kinds of responses you would get. Yet there are a sizable number of #NeverTrump conservatives who believe that Clinton is better for our future than Trump. I’m not endorsing or condemning this notion. I just wanted to point out the complete depths of absurdity into which this election has fallen.

Arguably more strange than conservatives supporting Clinton is the idea that supporters of Bernie Sanders would cross over to vote for Donald Trump if Clinton gets the nomination. Personally, I cannot fathom the degree of mental gymnastics required in order for a Sanders fan to pull the lever for Trump, but again, it speaks to how desperate some people feel about this election. When faced with a choice between the two most disliked presidential nominees in perhaps the entire history of our nation, voters will respond by voting in a way they never could have anticipated before this primary season started.

A third party alternative to Trump may not emerge this election (aside from the Libertarian Party, which I am very hesitant to vote for.) Regardless, I expect this election will shake up many of the long-standing norms and philosophies about voters identifying with a specific party. Perhaps the Libertarian Party candidate (or another one, if one emerges) will perform especially well in this election, leading to a subtle erosion of America’s two-party system. Young voters will play a very important role in how this shapes up, as I also expect many young millennial Sanders supporters to disavow the Democrat Party and turn elsewhere assuming Clinton gets the nomination. The Green Party would be overjoyed to have them join their ranks.

An election as strange as this one is fertile ground for a change in how young voters identify themselves in terms of political party preference. With both party putting forth legendarily disliked nominees, it seems obvious that many young voters will feel disappointed and look for a way to change the system. For me, the actions of the Republican party (and many of its voters) has caused me to lose most of my faith in the party. If a conservative alternative presents itself, I will give my wholehearted support.

I would be interested to hear some thoughts from the rest of you regarding how this election will impact young voters.


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