Have Republicans lost young voters forever? Maybe not, writes Harry Enten, a left-leaning American who writes Nate Silver-like analysis for Britain’s left-leaning Guardian. Enten notes that the young voters who entered the electorate in 2008 and 2012 had very liberal attitudes as high schoolers, as indicated by (the relatively few) polls of high school students. Today’s high schoolers tend to be significantly more conservative, he says. He doesn’t speculate on the reasons why, but I suspect one reason may be that their consciousness of the larger world has been formed in a time of sharp recession and achingly slow economic recovery. Enten might not agree; he argues that the economic situation in 2012 was very similar to that of 2004. But that’s an argument for another day.
I would add one point. In 1972 voters 18 to 29 gave Richard Nixon only a 52%-46% margin over George McGovern, while voters 30 and over voted 63%-36% for Nixon. That was the biggest difference between young voters and their elders until 2008, when young voters went 66%-32% for Barack Obama and their elders favored him by only 50%-49%. The margin was exactly the same among those 50 to 64, a group which includes just about all those between 18 and 29 in 1972. In other words, this group of (mostly) baby boomers was 9% more Democratic than the national average in 1972 but 3% more Republican than the national average in 2008. And in 2012 the 50 to 64 age group (not quite so congruent with the 18-29 group of 1972) voted 52%-47% for Mitt Romney, which is to say 5% more Republican than the national average.