Jan 15, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Younger voters declare independence

Younger U.S. voters are rejecting both parties and going independent.

  • Why it matters: It's a rebellion against this age of extreme partisanship.

Just one-third of baby boomers said they were independent in Gallup polling before the midterms — compared to 52% for both millennials and Gen Z.

The big picture: As you see above, Americans were evenly between the two major political parties (28% each) — but a plurality (41%) now identifies as independent.

  • That trend began in 2009, Jeffrey M. Jones writes in a new Gallup report.

Flashback: When Gallup began conducting interviews exclusively by phone in 1988, the U.S. had similar proportions of Democrats, Republicans and independents.

  • Millennials and now Gen Z have always been fiercely independent, especially when it comes to politics, John Della Volpedirector of polling at the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics — told Axios.
  • "With roughly 40% of the 2024 electorate comprised of these two generations, understanding and mobilizing the independent young voter is essential," he said.

What Dems need to do: "Unlike independent baby boomers, unaffiliated millennials and Zoomers have leaned Democrat in the last few elections," Della Volpe said.

  • "Democrats need to convert recent Republican chaos and Biden's 2022 triumphs (gun violence, climate, student loans, KBJ on SCOTUS, bipartisan infrastructure, etc.) into respect and trust for their party."

What the GOP needs to do: Republicans need to "convince millennials and Zoomers that they are listening and share some of the same values," Della Volpe said.

  • "This must start with a respect for individual rights and freedoms — especially reproductive rights, followed by a recognition that climate change, income inequality, mental health and the cost of college are meaningful concerns."

Reality check: Young voters skew liberal, but Dems can't take them for granted, Axios' Josh Kraushaar points out.

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