Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Republicans and the youth vote 

Glenn Reynolds cites this poll showing teens aged 12-17 support Bush over Kerry 47 percent to 31 percent as evidence that young voters are trending Republican. I would counter that it's just a sign that teens are not very aware of what's going on. Teens have been hearing the words "President Bush" for three years now; many of them heard John Kerry's name for the first time only recently, and still more might still not know who Kerry is. If the sitting president were a Democrat, I'd expect we'd see the same sort of skew in teen preference in the other direction. The large number of undecideds (24 percent) supports this hypothesis, as does the fact that "Bush does six points better with 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds than with older teens," who are more likely to be aware the people and issues surrounding the election.

Still, there is  evidence of an alarming Republican trend in the youth vote. Morton Kondracke writes:
In 60 years, no Democrat has ever won the presidency without carrying the youth vote. And right now, President Bush's approval rating among 18- to 29-year-olds is 62 percent, higher than his nationwide rating.
Amazingly, a recent poll of college students nationwide found that:
31 percent identify themselves as Republicans, 27 percent Democrats, and 38 percent Independent or unaffiliated.
If that's the case, why are college students traditionally viewed as liberal? My guess is that most students are  liberal, but that liberal students are less likely to vote than their conservative counterparts. This may be a new trend:
In 1996, voters aged 18 to 29 supported incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton over GOP challenger Bob Dole by a whopping 19-point margin, 53 percent to 34 percent. Young people were Clinton's strongest age group.

In 2000, however, Al Gore outpolled Bush by just 2 points in the youngest age group. Young voters supported Democratic Congressional candidates by just 1 point in 2000.
I don't understand the demographics behind this shift, but it's worrying. According to this book review, Democrats have lost touch with pop culture so completely that they may have caused greater apathy and a Republican shift in the youth vote.
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