“Democrats losing edge among young voters.”
“The college vote is up for grabs.”
“Far fewer 18-to-29 year olds identify themselves as Democrats.”
“Right now it seems like Republicans just care a lot more than Democrats.”
All these quotes — from a New York Times article titled “Fewer Young Voters See Themselves as Democrats,” out today — depict young people as moving dramatically in the direction of the GOP, risking “lasting or permanent damage” to the Democratic Party.
But it isn’t until the article’s twenty-first paragraph that we learn the magnitude of this “profound” shift:
Yep. According to the Pew Research Center, youth Democratic Party identification is down just five points from its mid-2008 high, and now stands at fifty-seven percent. What’s more, youth Democratic identification has actually risen in recent months, leaving the Dems with a healthy twenty-point advantage over Republicans.
Also unmentioned in the Times piece is the fact that this small decline in youth identification with the Democrats since 2008 almost precisely mirrors the decline in Democratic party identification in the electorate as a whole.
And despite the article’s claim that youth party affiliation is soft right now because young voters identified more with Obama than the Democrats in 2008, multiple polls show that youth support for the Democrats has actually declined less than their support for the President.
That last bit is really important, so I’ll say it again.
Since inauguration day, youth support for the Democratic Party has declined less than youth support for Obama.
“Youth” is an ambiguous concept in politics and polling. Gallup defines it as the 18-29 cohort in some polls, as the 18-34 group in others. Today’s Times piece defined it as voters born after 1980. (It should be noted that treating the “youth vote” and the “college vote” as synonymous, as the Times did in this piece, is a common, and huge, mistake.)
But however you define “youth,” the facts are clear:
- Young people in America today are more likely to identify as Democrats than Republicans, by a wide margin.
- Young people identify as Democrats at a higher rate than any other age group.
- The slippage in youth support for the Democrats in the last two years has been small and inconsistent.
- That slippage is in line with a decline in support that the Dems have seen in the electorate as a whole.
- Youth identification with the Democratic Party is more stable than youth support for President Obama.