The GOP has a problem with even young Republican voters

I’ve written here before about the growing chorus of concerned pundits that the Millennial generation might not be as progressive as previously assumed. There are two main arguments that attempt to puncture the view of the progressive Millennial: 1) that the experience of a poor economy under a Democratic president will push them to the right; and 2) that Millennial whites are basically as conservative as their older counterparts.

I’ve noted previously that while negative sentiment toward a Democratic administration might push some Millennials to apathy, it won’t drive them to into the arms of conservatives. The racial argument is interesting to a point, but also somewhat irrelevant: if part of the liberalizing of America is linked to the browning of America, that doesn’t discount the liberalizing element.

Still, even these arguments fail to note the remarkable degree to which even younger conservatives differ from older ones–and not just on social issues, but some major economic ones as well. Jocelyn Kiley and Michael Dimock at Pew have a great writeup on this phenomenon:

But in addition to the generation’s Democratic tendency, Millennials who identify with the GOP are also less conservative than Republicans in other generations: Among the roughly one-third of Millennials who affiliate with or lean Republican, just 31% have a mix of political values that are right-of-center, while about half (51%) take a mix of liberal and conservative positions and 18% have consistently or mostly liberal views. Among all Republicans and Republican leaners, 53% have conservative views; in the two oldest generations, Silents and Boomers, about two-thirds are consistently or mostly conservative.

In short, not only are Millennials less likely than older generations to identify as Republicans, but even those who do express significantly less conservative values than do their elders.

The generational divisions among Republicans span different dimensions of political values. Some of the most striking generational differences within Republicans concern social issues like homosexuality and immigration, but younger Republicans are also less conservative when it comes to values related to the environment, role of government, the social safety net and the marketplace.

Yes, the GOP does have a big problem with young voters. It has a big problem with even conserative young voters.

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.