The whole young people voting Democratic is an old idea, but it turns out, according to this very interesting Slate article, it’s actually a relatively new thing. I’ll let Jamelle Bouie explain:
“The generational divide in partisanship, for instance, didn’t exist 25 years ago, or at least, not in the same way. Take the 1988 electorate that chose Bush for president. There, Michael Dukakis won roughly the same share of seniors (49 percent) as he did voters younger than 30 (47 percent). Four years later, Bill Clinton won 43.5 percent of voters younger than 30 and 50 percent of voters 65 and older. If there was a generation gap, in other words, it was that older voters favored Democrats, not Republicans.”
“Simply put, when young people go to the polls they vote for Democrats and when older people cast their ballots, they vote for Republicans. And the gap is huge. In 2008, Barack Obama won 66 percent of voters younger than 30 compared with 47 percent of voters 60 and older. Likewise, in the Republican wave election of 2010, congressional Democrats suffered their largest losses with older voters and had their best performance with the millennial generation. In 2012, President Obama gave a repeat performance on both scores, winning 60 percent of voters younger than 30 and losing 56 percent of voters 65 and older. This year, Democrats won 54 percent of the youngest voters while 57 percent of senior voters went to Republicans.”
However, a good look at those numbers shows a definite peak. Obama 2008 was 66% under 30. Democrats in 2010 were at 58% under 30 (from here). Obama 2012 was 60% under 30. And finally, Democrats in 2014 were at 54%. Both the Democratc numbers and Obama’s go down, so what this article represents as a continuing surge really looks more like a peak and a dropoff. There’s no reason to assume this will stay the same (although I certainly hope so).
Okay, let’s hit up one more quote:
“In the 1990s, a substantial number of older voters—if not most older voters—belonged to the Greatest Generation, the men and women who grew up in the Depression and fought in World War II. They were New Deal Democrats in their formative years, and they kept that affiliation through the rest of the 20th century.”
Implying, of course, that once the upcoming generations become that older electorate, the United States will become a stronghold of Democrats. I suppose we’ll see, but we should heed the dire warning of gridlock and dysfunction in the meantime.