A decades-long blue wave
Young voters, projected to turn out overwhelmingly for Joe Biden, could provide a huge advantage for Democrats not just this for this election, but for decades to come.
Driving the news: Pollsters and political scientists have been poring over two new reports by the liberal Center for American Progress and the Harvard Institute of Politics this month that examine both the growing size and enthusiasm among the nation's youngest voters.
- The Harvard poll finds that 63% of 18- to 29-year olds "definitely" plan to vote. Their enthusiasm for Biden grew even stronger since September.
- The Center for American Progress' models forecast a huge advantage for Democrats in future elections, based on demographics and voting patterns of today’s youngest generations — even taking account of trends that show that Americans tend to become more conservative as they age.
- Its models find an 8% to 18% advantage for Democrats in the popular vote by 2036. Electoral college models, which factor in changing state demographics of these young voters, look even more formidable for Republicans.
Millennials and Generation Z are much more liberal than their predecessors and voted for Democrats in previous election cycles. Voting research shows that the president you vote for as you come of age to vote often determines which party you'll stick with, too.
- Millennials (born 1981 to 1996) and Generation Z (born 1997 onward) voters combined are estimated to represent 37% of eligible voters this year — larger than that of Baby Boomers (28%) and Generation X (24%).
- By 2036, those two generations will make up 60% of the electorate.
What they're saying: “In the near term, the die is cast,” said Carroll Doherty, director of political research at Pew Research Center. “It’s obvious this is a generation, whether it be Millennials or Gen Z, this is clearly a Democratic generation and without a big change of heart they're going to remain so.”
- Some Republicans agree: Young voters "will have voted for Democrats so repeatedly that it would be hard to shake them of that," Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson told Axios.
- "I think with older Millennials, we’re seeing the fruits of that. Republicans have by and large lost a lot of the Millennials. They cannot also afford to lose all of Generation Z.”
Yes, but: The election-upending impact of younger voters has been predicted for decades and has yet to come to pass.
- The authors of the Center for American Progress report warn that Democrats could fail to cultivate these younger voters even as Republicans shouldn't rely on these voters to turn more conservative as they age.
- "[D]emographic, especially generational, change is likely to have profound effects on the competition between the parties in this decade and beyond. We cannot say which party will best handle these changes, only that they will have to do so."
William H. Frey, an author of the demographics report, stated in his report that the simulations he and his colleagues conducted aren’t predictions. The unknown is whether Democrats — in particular Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris — will continue to engage these youngest voters.
- "If Biden wins, to what degree will he satisfy this group and cultivate this group? We've already seen that some of the polls show that Latinos are not as strong for him and younger people are not as strong for him as maybe for some other Democratic candidates," Frey told Axios.
- "Can he, and especially Kamala Harris, do those kinds of things that will keep them energized. There's strong voting this time, but it's going to be largely against Trump ... it's not so much being energized by the Democrats."
The bottom line: Even if Trump pulls out a victory, the Republican Party's long game is in serious trouble.