The Next Generation of Conservatives

The Next Generation of Conservatives

f you Google ‘young voters’ or browse a typical midterm recap article from MSNBC or the Washington Post, you may walk away with the unremarkable conclusion that nothing has changed with young voters. For years, analysts, pundits, and political parties have lumped millennials into a bucket and called it ‘the youth vote’. Conservatives have attempted to appeal to younger voters with mixed results and largely conceded these votes to the left. Democrats have relied heavily on the millennial vote – former President Obama won 60% of the millennial vote in 2012 and a 2017 Pew Center survey confirmed he is still highly popular among millennials. The consensus appears to be that young voters are still enthusiastic liberals and instrumental in securing Democratic victories across the nation. While this was true for millennials as a whole, the upper end of the millennial cohort is now in their late-30s. They’re getting older, and while their political preferences don’t appear to be shifting substantially, the political preferences of the next generation of adults are shifting the overall direction of ‘the youth vote’.

A growing body of research indicates the generation born after 1995 – dubbed Generation Z – is significantly more conservative than millennials, and may be the most conservative generation since WWII.  Well and good, but what is the actual impact of this generation? The answer is, it could be huge. Generation Z will have a large impact on the future of the nation across two concrete measures: time and scope. First, voters in their late teens and early 20’s have an average of 60+ years ahead of them to affect the direction of the United States across a range of social, economic, privacy, security, and technology issues. Second, young adults born after 1995 outnumber every other living age cohort in the nation at 25 percent of the population. Generation Z outnumbers Baby Boomers and millennials combined.

While we wait on state voter files to examine voting preferences by age, CNN exit polling provides a blueprint to understand the youth vote in the wake of the midterms. CNN broke out the youth vote by age in two categories: voters 18 to 29, and a further segmented group of voters 18 to 24. When the youth vote includes all voters under 30, the majority of under-thirties side with Democrats. However, when the youth vote is defined as those under twenty-five, the youngest voters break from pattern, supporting Republicans at higher proportions than those over twenty-five. In a score of tight races, the 18 to 24-year-old age cohort was the only segment under age 40 to break from the typical youth-vote-left pattern, supporting Republican candidates at rates significantly higher than millennials. Races in key swing states including Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin paint an increasingly purple map of the youngest voters, in stark contrast to the consistent blue map of millennials.

In the Indiana Senate race, Republican state lawmaker Mike Braun defeated Democratic incumbent Joe Donnelly with the support of Indiana’s youngest voters. Braun tied with Donnelly for the under-twenty-five segment 47% to 47%. More voters under 25 voted for Braun than those in every other age cohort under 40. Below is a breakdown by age.

In Florida’s tightly contested gubernatorial race, Republican Ron DeSantis defeated Democratic challenger Andrew Gillum in a narrow victory. In this case, Generation Z did break in favor of Gillum, but far less enthusiastically than every other age group under 40. Gillum secured 64% of voters 25 to 29 and 63% of voters 30 to 39, but just 58% of voters 18 to 24. DeSantis secured a full 40% of Florida’s under-twenty-fives. Below is a breakdown by age.

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