January 7, 2008

Gen-Next: The Least Republican Generation

58%

That’s the proportion of voters ages 18-24 who cast their votes for Democratic candidates in the 2006 mid-term elections — a trend that appears to be continuing in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election.

In the 2006 mid-term elections for Congress, young people, ages 18-24, voted overwhelmingly for Democrats over Republicans, by a 58%-37% margin, according to national exit polls — a pattern reflective of a broader Democratic leaning among Gen Nexters compared with earlier Republican-leaning generations. In 2006, 48% of young people identified themselves as Democrats or leaned toward the Democratic Party, while only 35% identified themselves as Republicans – the lowest number recorded by Pew in its nearly 20-year trend. This makes them the least Republican generation. Larger percentages of Gen Xers, Boomers and Seniors identify with the GOP. It is not the case that young people have always been more Democratic. In fact, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, 18-25 year-olds were more Republican than older age groups. Some political science research suggests that voters make the connection to a political party relatively early on in their adult life and tend to stick with that party as they get older; Generation X continues to be the most Republican-leaning generation today. If Gen Nexters remain solidly Democratic and continue to become more politically engaged, this could have major consequences for electoral politics. In addition to being more Democratic, Gen Nexters are also more liberal than their older counterparts. When asked to describe their political views, 26% of Nexters say they are liberal; 36% describe themselves as moderate; and 29% say they are conservative. In higher age groups successively, fewer Americans think of themselves as liberal and more identify themselves as conservative — among those over 60 only 14% call themselves liberal while 42% self-identify as conservative. Read More