In my recent blogpost on the politics of the millennial generation, I noted the differences in party identification between older and younger millennials in the Harvard Institute of Politics's recent poll of 3,058 millennials. Simply put, older millennials are more Democratic than younger millennials. “So perhaps,” I speculated, “the attitudes of older millennials were shaped by the perceived unsuccess of [George W.] Bush and those of the younger millennials by the perceived unsuccess of Obama.”
I'm not the only one to reach that conclusion. Over at the Washington Post's Monkey Cage blog, George Washington University political scientist John Sides, using data helpfully provided by the Harvard IOP folks, reaches a similar conclusion. Sides reports that party identification among millennials age 23 to 29 is 48 or 49 percent Democratic and 28 to 30 percent Republican -- a big lead for Democrats.
Among those 21 and 22, it’s 44 percent Democratic and 32 percent Republican. But those 18 to 20 are Democratic over Republican by only a 41 to 38 percent margin. That seems likely to be at the edge of statistical significance. And it’s a big difference from the older millennials.
The older millennials age 23 to 29 turned 18 between 2003 and 2009, the Bush years. The youngest Millennials age 18 to 20 turned 18 between 2012 and this year, the later Obama years.
As Sides writes, "The youngest millennials came of age politically under a Democratic president whose popularity is below average and who has presided over a sluggish economy. Older millennials came of age politically under a Republican incumbent who became even less popular while presiding over a controversial war and a catastrophic recession. There is no reason that the two groups should be political twins.”
But as he also notes, party preference can change. The baby boomers who were about evenly divided between Richard Nixon and George McGovern in 1972, when the nation as a whole favored Nixon 61 to 38 percent, voted for Mitt Romney in 2012.
Heartening interpretation for Republicans: Your party hasn’t lost the millennials irrevocably. Your prospects are pretty good as the older millennials start to be outnumbered by younger millennials. And note that most likely there are higher percentages of Hispanics among younger than older millennials. So you haven’t irrevocably lost Hispanics either.
Heartening interpretation for Democrats: These young millennials have yet to be influenced by the Left-leaning atmosphere on campuses and in unemployment lines. They’re still reflecting the views of their parents, a disproportionate number of whom because of higher birth rates may be evangelical Christians. When that wears off they’ll find Republicans more repugnant, as older millennials do.
Which interpretation is right? We’ll see.
CORRECTION: The older millennials who turned 18 during the Bush 43 years would now be 23-29 years old. The age range was misstated in an earlier version of this post. The Washington Examiner regrets the error.