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ICYMI: “Trump’s Alienation of Younger Voters is a Generational Gamble for GOP”

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Leading political observer Ron Brownstein’s latest CNN column explores how “Trump’s alienation of younger voters is a generational gamble for GOP.”

Brownstein’s assessment echoes the recent Washington Post “Monkey Cage” analysis by University of Maryland associate professor Stella Rouse, who wrote how Republicans’ hard-line stance on immigration may alienate millennials for years. Rouse found: “Across a variety of measures, we found millennials to be significantly more favorable toward immigrants and immigration than older Americans.”

The Brownstein analysis is excerpted below and available in full online here:

The sharp turn against the Republican Party by young people in the 2018 election may be only the overture to an even greater political risk for the GOP in 2020.

…Even with much higher than usual turnout among young voters this year, voters 45 and below are likely to increase their proportion of the total vote from just under three-in-ten this year to something closer to four-in-ten by 2020, historical trends suggest.

…A rising participation level could threaten Republicans at a moment when younger voters, who have consistently expressed preponderant opposition to President Donald Trump in polls, provided Democrats their largest margins in decades during last month’s election.

… preliminary Catalist analysis of the 2018 results provides a consistent data source to assess the trends … The analysis found that both voters aged 18-29 (the younger half of the millennial Generation) and those aged 30-44 (the older millennials and younger part of Generation X) constituted a larger share of the vote this year than in 2014, the most recent mid-term election. Combined, those voters under 45 cast 29% of the votes last month, Catalist estimates, compared to 26% in 2014.

Several states with Democratic campaigns that particularly targeted young people saw bigger increases, according to previously unpublished Catalist data. In Arizona, the share of the vote cast by those under 45 spiked from 21% in 2014 to 29% this year; in Georgia, the numbers jumped from 29% to 36% ; Texas increased from 26% to 33%.

All of that reflected the unusually high level of engagement among young people this year: Tufts University’s Center for Information on Civic Learning and Engagement, which studies younger voters, estimates that about 31% of those 18-29 voted in 2018, up from only about 20% in the 2014 mid-term.

But, critically, even with these gains, young people still constituted a smaller share of the vote than in the recent presidential elections, both nationally and in the key states. In Catalist’s estimates, voters under 45 represented 36% of the voters in 2016, while the Census Bureau put the figure at 38%. In each case that is well above Catalist’s 29% for 2018. In the states, Catalist calculated that the under-45 share of the vote this year still substantially lagged behind the 2016 level not only in younger Sun Belt states such as Arizona, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas, but also in older Rust Belt states including Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

That raises the clear red flag for Republicans that the young people who broke decisively against the party last month are likely to comprise a measurably larger share of voters in 2020.

…Heightened turnout in 2020 would raise the price for the losses Republicans suffered among younger voters this year. In the exit polls, Democrats carried fully 67% of voters aged 18-29 in House elections. That represented their best performance among adults under 30 in any House election since at least 1986 …Similarly, exit polls this year found House Democrats captured 58% among voters aged 30-44. That’s also the highest share of the vote Democrats have won in that age group since 1986. House Democrats had lost those voters, who might be described as early middle-aged, as recently as 2010 and had not carried more than 52% of them in any of the three elections since.

… while the GOP’s difficulties with the Millennial Generation predate Trump, there seems little doubt that he has compounded them. From the outset, many millennials viewed Trump’s belligerent language on race and immigration, and his belittling comments about women, as an explicit counterrevolution against the ideal of a more inclusive and tolerant America that most of them say they support. In a summer 2016 ABC/Washington Post survey, two thirds of voters under 40 said they considered Trump biased against women and minorities.

…”The disapproval of Trump, and the views of him as being a racist and sexist that we saw [among young people] in 2016, was somewhat muted by not loving Hillary Clinton,” said Baumann. “But it just got amplified after him being in power for two years. One of my theories coming out of 2016 was that Republicans by embracing Trump were at risk of losing a generation of voters, and it sure seems like that is coming to the fore now.”

Strategists in both parties agree Trump could survive greater rejection from younger voters in 2020 if he inspires high turnout and big margins among his core groups of older, non-urban and blue-collar whites; those groups are especially prevalent in the Rust Belt states that keyed his victory last time. And young people from rural areas or white working-class backgrounds have shown much greater openness to Trump’s message than their generational counterparts who are non-white, college-educated or living in large metropolitan areas.

…All of the major data sources on the electorate’s composition — from the Census Bureau to the exit polls to Catalist — agree that the share of the vote cast by Trump’s core group of whites without a college education has been declining by about two percentage points over each four-year presidential cycle. With turnout among minorities and college-educated whites surging, Catalist’s preliminary analysis found those working-class whites, while still the electorate’s largest single group, dropped fully five points as a share of the vote this year, compared to the last mid-term in 2014.

One thing no political strategy can reverse is the tide of generational replacement. As not only the World War II and Silent Generations, but also more baby boomers pass out of the electorate, the share of the eligible voting pool comprised of Generation X, millennials and Post-millennials is inexorably rising. The States of Change project forecasts those three generations — which are much more racially diverse and college-educated than the generations they are replacing — will continue growing to about two-thirds of eligible voters by 2024 and nearly three-fourths by 2028. More voters mean more consequences if Republicans can’t soften the recoil from the party that younger voters displayed last month.