Nah – The Young Are Still Leaning Left

Ideology By Generation

Using some new Gallup data, Leonhardt pushes back on the notion that today’s teenagers are more conservative than millennials:

For starters, the Gallup data indicates that today’s oldest teenagers do not identify themselves as any more conservative than people in their 20s. About 27 percent of 18- to 21-year-olds identify as liberal, compared with about 25 percent who call themselves conservative. Among 25- to 29-year-olds, the liberal lead is 28 percent to 27 percent. … Eighteen- and 19-year-olds look roughly as Democratic-leaning as people in their 20s. The Democrats have an advantage of about 14 or 15 percentage points.

Chait chimes in:

As Leonhardt notes, there may be a slight tilt away from the Democrats. But that still would count not so much as good news for Republicans as somewhat less terrible news.

As every election cycle, older, Republican-leaning voters die off and are replaced by newer, Democratic-leaning ones. If the youngest and newest cohort is somewhat less Democratic leaning than the previous one, it would slow the process. But it’s like having your house flood at a slightly less rapid pace. The fabled new teenage conservatism remains as yet illusory.

Yglesias feels that the GOP is simply out-of-touch with today’s youth:

There’s something very oldsterish about contemporary conservative politics. The constant bickering about Ronald Reagan is very odd to anyone too young to have any particular recollection of the Reagan years. Calling a group of people “Beyoncé Voters” as an insult is weird. Some of this oldsterism is just ticks, but some of it has policy implications. The sort of budgetary priorities that call for huge cuts in all domestic spending, except no cuts at all for anyone born before 1959 is kind of weird. The huge freakout over New York City starting a bicycle program last summer was bizarre. It’s easy to imagine a political party that’s broadly favorable to low taxes and light regulation without sharing this particular set of ticks. And then there was the time George Will wrote a column-length rant against blue jeans.

Bernstein bets this will change eventually:

Republicans will adapt to the biases and preferences of people who vote Republican in the 2020s, rather than only attracting people who are drawn to the current Republican mix of policies and rhetoric. And why will people be Republicans? Because they started out as Republicans (either by inheritance, or because they started voting in good Republican years). If the economy collapses when a Democratic president is in office, Republican “oldster” rhetoric isn’t going to matter much.

Or, to put it another way: The reason that Democratic positions and rhetoric, especially on second and third-tier issues, sound good to Yglesias and those younger than him is that he and so many of those folks are Democrats. Not the other way around. And when younger voters are mostly Republican (and, yes, that’s going to happen at some point), then Republican rhetoric and policy preferences will adapt to that cohort.