April 15th, 2013
12:30 PM ET

Understanding Republicans' Millenials problem

By Global Public Square staff

As the Supreme Court ponders the legality of gay marriage in the United States, everyone is talking about the political divide, where twice as many Democrats support gay marriage as Republicans. The more influential divide is actually not a simple left or right...it's age.

A chart from the Pew Research Center shows that of Americans born in the 1930's and '40s (known as the "Silent Generation") only 31 percent favor same-sex marriage. But amongst baby boomers, the number rises to 38 percent. It gets still higher for the middle-aged "Generation X", at about 49 percent. For the Millennials, those born in 1981 or later: 70 percent support gay marriage. Some other polls put that number even higher, rising to 80 percent.

Millennials are an important constituency, representing about a fifth of this country's voting-age population. Obviously, they are going to be around longer than anyone else, so you want to have them on your side.

And their voting patterns are actually striking. If you break down voter's party choices by age groups, here's what you find. The oldest generation breaks Republican 48 to 44 percent, the baby boomers break democratic by about the same margin, the generation after that, Generation X, is slightly Democratic by 47 to 45 percent. The Millenials, however, are off the charts – they are Democratic by 62 to 30 percent in 2008 and 55 to 36 percent in 2012. This is a stunning gap.

More from CNN: Obama's new Democratic majority

Now, some explain this by citing a common myth: when you're young, you're liberal; the older you get, the more conservative you become. But it turns out the most important factor is not just your age, but when you came of age.

The Pew Research Center data also shows that Americans who turned 18 during the Obama or George W. Bush years have overwhelmingly supported Democrats in every presidential election they've voted in. The same goes for those who came of age during the Clinton years – they are Democrats. But that doesn't mean young Americans have always skewed left.

Look back at the Republican-led years of Reagan and George H. W. Bush and the numbers look very different: Americans who came of age then have skewed Republican in the polls ever since. The same goes for the Ford and Carter years.

So what can we infer about the present?

For now, Democrats have a lock on the young demographic. The party has been more progressive on many of the issues dear to young Americans: immigration, gay marriage, gun control.

On the other hand, these are historically bad times for the economy. If you're graduating from high school or college, a depressed job market looms in front of you. If economics trumps politics, the Millenials could switch.

That is more plausible than it might initially sound. Of the ten states with the lowest unemployment, seven went Republican in the last election. Of the ten states with the largest population growth, again, seven went Republican.

Republicans seem to be winning in states that are growing, where there are jobs, and where the governors seem competent and pragmatic.

Good governance, it turns out, is also very good politics.

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soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. SB

    So the implication at the end is still the faulty notion at Republicans are better for the economy? Please.

    April 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • SB


      April 15, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Reply
    • Jason

      The "Lock" on younger voters will only last until those voters get real jobs and have to start paying real taxes, then it's game over.

      April 17, 2013 at 12:36 am | Reply
      • Hahahahahahahah

        Oooooooo. Jason thinks he's rich and is being represented by republicans. Hahahahahhahahaha

        April 17, 2013 at 9:08 am |
    • Jon

      Thank you. I agree completely. I thought Clinton blew this misconception out of the water with his address at the Democratic national convention - statistically, over the last multiple decades, more than twice as many jobs have been created under democrats as compared to republicans, even though democrats were in control for fewer terms. Who is paying the media to perpetuate this misconception? I would never think Fareed would say this sort of thing. It is NOT about "economics trumping politics", it is about DISAGREEMENT of what is good for the economy, and the statistics are firmly on the side of DEMOCRATS.

      April 21, 2013 at 10:50 am | Reply
      • Charles

        Jon, apparently you have never lived in a CITY that has been destroyed by bad economic policies perpetuated by Democrats for a sustained period. I do. I have actually lived in a few, currently Baltimore. In Baltimore the city and state government have passed legislation that has caved to special and private interest driving our main industries to relocate else where in the United States. The city is in massive debt with no light in sight. It wastes money on frivilous things and then finds ways to tax the average Joe on everything from hightened gas tax, bottle tax, plastic bag tax, alcohol tax, and now even rain water tax. In fact the next democratic presidential hopeful Governor O'Malley has raised fees and taxes on things that affect the working class people 32 times since his time as governor!

        My point is that Democrats and Republicans have both played a part in bad economic policy, however our current set of democratic leaders no only one answer that has failed miserably when you compare them to thier projected outcomes... that is SPEND. The federal reserve has taken this same route, while also manipulating market rates. This whole thing is leading to massive debt and another correction of the market. The eventual outcome will be stagnation, correction and massive debt. The Republicans are still out to lunch too for the most part, however at least they are starting to come around to seeing where all these failed policies are going.

        April 21, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
  2. Benedict

    when in Rome,do as Romans do!!!.

    April 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  3. sand

    Greece has a unemployment of 27.2 percent that’s the latest figures from eurostat.com so what ever policy USA and Britain does its game over bankrupt means bankrupt a beggar is a beggar macroeconomics or not GDP or GNP gross national product ricardian model or gravity model USA and Britain are 2 bankrupt loser of extra ordinary proportions

    April 15, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
  4. Pangolin

    Nine of the ten states with the highest poverty levels are governed by Republicans. If you want your state to be eternally mired in poverty keep voting Republican; it seems to do it for them.

    April 15, 2013 at 5:31 pm | Reply
    • Student

      No he was saying that they voted in Republicans because the poverty was so bad and that Republicans have good governance.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Reply
    • Praveen P

      The idea that republican states are poorer is incorrect. The problem with poverty statistics in the US is they do not account for cost of living differences between the states. If you look at the official poverty figures, Texas has a higher percentage of its population living in poverty than California. However, these figures do not take into account the fact that the cost of living in most places in Texas is at least 20% lower than most places in California. So, a person making $8 an hour in Texas is better off than someone making $9 an hour in California. In general, red states have a lower cost of living. You can easily verify this: go to a website that compares cost of living between cities, and start comparing randomly-selected cities in red states with similarly-sized cities in blue states. You can start with Houston and Chicago.

      April 22, 2013 at 10:29 am | Reply
  5. j. von hettlingen

    Indeed, age does have an impact on voters' behaviour. While older people tend to stick to party policies they are familiar with, younger voters focus more than ever on the personality of the candidates. Even if they like the party policies of a certain candidate, they might still reject him, if they don't like him.

    April 15, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Reply
  6. Tony Deisla

    "Republicans seem to be winning in states that are growing, where there are jobs, and where the governors seem competent and pragmatic."

    Could it be that maybe conservatism works, and * progressiveism" doesnt?

    Look at CA. State is broke, and economy is in the pits, then look at TX.

    Conservatives got it right, liberals don't.

    April 15, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply
    • Hahahahahahahah

      Since WHEN has a republican EVER been a conservative?? BTW – republicans did not invent oil in TX. Hahahahahahahaha

      April 16, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Reply
    • Student

      Yes they do.

      April 16, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Reply
    • YoungNiceGuy

      But Texas has high rates of poverty, a horrible education system and variety of other social ills.

      April 18, 2013 at 9:29 pm | Reply
  7. FHP

    I really, really wish the GOP would just LISTEN for once. http://www.frathousephilosophy.com/2013/04/an-open-drunken-letter-to-gop.html

    April 15, 2013 at 9:03 pm | Reply
  8. wjm

    At this point in time it really doesn't matter who gets elected republican or democrat, the policies of the seventies and eighties are when the car started going over the cliff and there isn't the will to go through the wreckage to see if anyone survived. Corporate taxes as well as tax loopholes that were set in motion during the seventies are still at work today. If you go and look where corporate and business taxes were and where they are today you will find the real reason why the economy is where it is. The lobby groups who work on the side of business have already won, if no one is going to take these groups to task on their role in creating today's situation, then things won't be getting better for a long time. As the corporate and business class taxes have dropped to historical lows, the government is not able to bring enough money in to balance the books. The middle class are going to further straddled with more taxes on their earnings. Even though the overall size of the middle class has shrunk during the last 35 years, it is still the only place where the government can hope to receive enough money through taxes to keep the country from going further in debt. The only thing that is keeping the middle class from tottering over the edge are these low interest rates and they are being kept low because the government bureaucrats know that this is the case. If the interest rates were to climb by three or four percentage points then the whole house of cards keeping the economy alive will fall apart. Business lobbyists have has been using there leverage to take hold of to many elected officials ears, who now couldn't fix the situation even if they wanted to, yesterday they asked here if Thatchers style of politics would be able to change the road were on, and the truth is today that not even the Clinton plan for prosperity could change what's taking place today. Its like nobody could see what was coming down the road, and what is coming down the road is a tractor trailer full of explosives and no brakes. Now it seems like there is nothing to do but sit back and watch it happen as the truck collides with a minivan, killing all those inside the bus. You can't continue to expand your population and at the same time divy up the world without putting millions of people out of work. If only ten or fifteen percent of the global population is producing then close to eighty-five percent aren't actually working. The truth is that it doesn't take seven billion people to make the products and supply the seven billiom people. So almost every country on the planet is going through the same sort of employment problem, way more people then there are jobs to fill. This isn't going to be an overnight fix, this could take the next couple of decades just to find a point where there are enough people working to make supply and demand system of business to work. This is the problem your elected officials have to deal with and the sooner they wake up and smell the coffee the better.

    April 16, 2013 at 12:34 am | Reply
  9. trueguyforever

    As a conservative I am tired of the whole mess. I find it interesting that the Libs on CNN put out these articles about how the Republicans can return. Personally, I would like to see them just disband. Then who would the libs blame all their troubles on then? I have to give it to them, so far they have done a masterful job of deflecting all the blame to the Republicans.

    April 16, 2013 at 7:55 pm | Reply
  10. izy

    "That is more plausible than it might initially sound. Of the ten states with the lowest unemployment, seven went Republican in the last election. Of the ten states with the largest population growth, again, seven went Republican.
    Republicans seem to be winning in states that are growing, where there are jobs, and where the governors seem competent and pragmatic."

    wow...to the person who wrote this article, PUT THE PIPE DOWN, LMAO!!!! WOW, I CANT STOP LAUGHING!!!!! this is definitely a repub bias article.

    April 16, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Reply
  11. JesterJames

    Politics is a game of compromise. you can only compromise on the interest of the people who support you.

    April 17, 2013 at 1:57 am | Reply
  12. Phaerisee

    The trend will continue until the GOP is willing to take an honest look in the mirror.

    April 17, 2013 at 7:49 am | Reply
  13. ernie boomer

    Well if your not a Liberal when your young you have no heart, If your not a conservative when you are older, you have no brains.

    April 17, 2013 at 8:03 pm | Reply
  14. johnny vistar

    Only 1 Republican senator voted for gun background check, this literally knocked the last nail on the coffin of the hope of Republicans controlling Congress in the next General Elections. In fact I dare say the Republicans overall reputation have been badly tarnished by the way they put up barricades against Pres Obama's solutions to grow the US economy and to create more jobs for Americans.

    I think the US economy could have recovered by leaps and bounds had it not been for the Republican senators' conscientious self-serving obstructions.

    April 17, 2013 at 10:37 pm | Reply
  15. Ted Ward

    The Democrats are much better at the superficial smoke and mirrors of style and coolness over content and consequences. The Republicans are like uncool parents trying to consider consequences, set boundaries and enforce needed limits for a generation still too young to know what it's like to pay the piper.

    April 18, 2013 at 12:11 am | Reply
  16. slice

    Most young voters will probably identify with a guy like Gary Johnson, the only problem, they've never heard of him.

    April 18, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply
  17. Joeyjojo Shabado

    This article leaves out one of the biggest factors causing young voters to vote for Democrats which is climate change. According to the National Academy of Sciences 97% of scientist agree that climate change is real and man made. In the end denying climate change is at the very least a very big gamble meaning that if climate change is a hoax there will not be any negative consequences with doing nothing, however if they are wrong the consequences will be dire and alter the way humans live on this planet for centuries to come. If you are a baby boomer or older that gamble is considerably less risky because it requires you to make sacrifices today in order to avert consequences that won't happen until after you die. Conversely young people will bare the brunt of the effects of climate change, so they are less willing to accept that risk. Today's Republican party has taken a firm stance of denying climate change, despite overwhelming scientific consensus, which in turn alienates the group that will be affected by it the most.

    April 19, 2013 at 10:28 am | Reply
  18. Rob

    if they enjoy being controlled, it will last

    April 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  19. omer

    gay marriage is not a religious issue. is a civil rights issue. law makers need to understand this. is a civil right!! regardless of church opposition.

    April 23, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Reply
  20. Peter

    As always, popular opinion polls have no bearings on economic growth. The 60/30 Millennial trend to liberal socialist democrats is true of a paradigm shift in favour of the abstract linear material development opposing the social and objective establishment. The modern perspectives believe they are moving forward with the new, when in fact modern developments is stripping or thinning everything social and spiritually human.

    Driven by imposed secular and material developments of the economy and political agenda, modern individuals are lacking that portion of the mind responsible for social objective reasoning, follow similar choices and uniformed reactions.

    It is not a stable development and its future if succeed is disastrous to humanity.

    April 23, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply

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