Not Your Parents' Party: How Gens X, Y, and Z Will Shake Up Our Politics
Whether it's their views on immigration, gun laws, or climate change, young people today are changing the face of politics. Are millennials and post-millennials becoming more progressive, or will they "grow into" conservative views? How might they change the Democratic 2020 primary? And how has their support for Trump changed since 2016? Kristen Soltis Anderson, Republican pollster and co-founder of Echelon Insights, debates Margie Omero, Democratic pollster and principal at GBAO. They speak with Mike Allen, co-founder and executive editor of Axios, about what today’s political leaders must learn from young people.
A breakdown of the generations
Young American voters are leaning to the left. They tend to favor democratic candidates and are progressive on a variety of issues. It’s not surprising then, says pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson, that the commonly held perception is that “kids start off progressive but become more conservative.” In 2008, when young people helped Barack Obama garner enough votes to become president, Anderson decided to myth-bust.
In the last midterm election in 2018, 42 percent of millennials turned out to vote, which is a huge spike over the midterms of 2014. “[Young people] are turning out to vote in the sorts of elections they didn’t used to participate in,” says Kristen Soltis Anderson. And, starting with the election of President Obama in 2008, young voters have been breaking for the democrats, and according to Anderson, “these young voters are not likely to come back to the GOP anytime soon.”
Big IdeaSomeone who turned 18 on the eve of the presidential election in 2016, based on life expectancy, will be voting until 2076. So winning them when they’re young will pay dividends over a lifetime of votes.Kristen Soltis Anderson
When it comes to immigration policy, the majority of millennials support a path to citizenship for people who qualify for DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Additionally, 80 percent of millennials, according to GenForward, believe a pathway to citizenship should be available for law-abiding immigrants, or those who serve in the military. Kristen Soltis Anderson says this thinking is due, in part, to the greater diversity of the millennial generation. “Anytime you’re talking about generational politics, you’re inherently also talking about racial and ethnic politics because the younger generations are so much more diverse,” she says.
Younger generations are diverse
Anderson says there’s a danger in alienating Latino voters writ large. “You’re going to have an uphill battle winning young votes.” Younger generations, she says, believe we should be engaging productively with our allies, including Mexico. ”The kind of combative racial polarization that we see is just totally out of step with the ability to win over millennials and gen Z.”
One issue young voters have embraced recently is gun control. Margie Omero, principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, says for a long time public opinion supported stronger gun laws but lawmakers were overly cautious to tackle the issue. Then, a fatal school shooting in Parkland, Florida forced them to confront gun control. Students from Stoneman Douglas High School caught the attention of the nation and members of Congress. “They hadn’t necessarily listened to young people and they hadn’t listened to where the public was on guns. Now, you see a real change,” says Omero.
Now, Omero says, gun control is showing up in the Democratic primaries and Republicans are struggling to figure out how to talk about guns. “[The gun debate] has changed dramatically even though the underlying structure — people want to see guns out of dangerous hands — has been true for a long time.”