Youth Turning Left, but Older, Conservative Voters Growing in Influence

February 3, 2020 Updated: February 3, 2020
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While younger Americans embrace “liberalism” and “socialism,” older Americans—a prized demographic group won by President Donald Trump in 2016—skew conservative and are growing in numbers, according to a new analysis.

The analysis by Stef W. Kight of Axios comes as Democrats in early primary and caucus states such as New Hampshire and Iowa prepare to choose their party’s nominee. The leading Democratic candidates—former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren—are all in their 70s. President Trump, who faces no serious opposition in the Republican primaries, is 73.

Kight reports that younger people are apparently moving left.

The demographic cohorts known as millennials (born roughly 1981 to 1996) and Generation Z (born roughly 1997 to 2012) are remaining loyal to the Democratic Party as they grow older. Generation Z is a significantly smaller cohort than the baby boomers (born roughly 1946 to 1964) and 12 percent of millennials are non-citizens who aren’t eligible to vote, according to Pew Research Center.

Both Generation Z and millennials support “liberalism” and “socialism.”

About half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters (47 percent) consider themselves to be liberal, including 15 percent who say they are very liberal, according to Pew political surveys carried out in 2019.

The percentage of Democratic voters calling themselves liberal has remained steady in recent years, after rising from 2000 to 2016.

As a portion of Democratic voters, liberals (47 percent) outnumber moderates (38 percent) and conservatives (14 percent), although combined, conservatives and moderates continue to constitute about half of Democratic voters (51 percent), according to Pew.

In the country as a whole, conservatives remain the largest ideological grouping in the United States, even as the percentage of Americans identifying as liberals has been rising since the 1990s, The Epoch Times previously reported.

According to polling company Gallup, the ideological balance remained center-right in 2019, as 37 percent of Americans identified as conservative, while 24 percent identified as liberal and 35 percent identified as moderate. The 2019 findings are based on 21 telephone surveys that feature more than 29,000 interviews with adults.

Members of Generation Z have a more positive opinion of the word “socialism” than previous generations had, including millennials, and are more inclined to sympathize with socialistic policies and principles than older generations, according to a Harris poll last year.

“The word ‘socialism’ does not carry the same stigma it did in the past, now that it has been resurrected by celebrity politicians like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Kight observed. “Young people’s political views often change as they grow older, but their support for socialistic policies is a sign that the old rules of politics are changing fast.”

These ideological inclinations seem likely to give Democrats an edge.

Young voters who reached the age of 18 during the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, or George H.W. Bush voted Republican more often than the average nationally, Pew reported. Young voters who reached voting age during the presidencies of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama have been much more Democratic in their voting habits.

Even as the youngest voters—who are less likely than others to show up at the polls to vote—turn left, the size of older, more conservative voting blocs is rising, which seems to bode well for President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Older people tend to be more conservative than younger people and are a key demographic group targeted by the Trump campaign.

The 65-plus-year-olds’ share of the electorate may reach 23 percent in 2020, up from just 18 percent in 2000, according to Pew. At the same time, the share of eligible voters 18 to 24 may fall a percentage point to 12 percent this year.

Older people tend to be more enthusiastic about voting than younger people.

About 71 percent of eligible 65-plus-year-olds, and 67 percent of 45- to 64-year-olds, voted in 2016, compared to less than half of 18- to 29-year-olds, according to Axios’ analysis of census data.