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Opinion | Democrats and Republicans Are Living in Different Worlds

In a July 10 Washington Post essay, “2024 Won’t Be a Trump-Biden Replay. You Can Thank Gen Z for That,” Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster, and Mac Heller, a producer of political documentaries, describe the growing strength of young Democratic-leaning voters. “Every year,” they write,

About 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. In the eight years between the 2016 and 2024 elections, that’s 32 million new eligible voters. Also every year, two-and a half million older Americans die. So in the same eight years, that’s as many as 20 million fewer older voters.

Which means that between Trump’s election in 2016 and the 2024 election, the number of Gen Z (born in the late 1990s and early 2010s) voters will have advanced by a net 52 million against older people. That’s about 20 percent of the total 2020 eligible electorate of 258 million Americans.

Why is that significant? These Gen Z voters are turning out in higher percentages than similarly aged voters in the past, and their commitment to a liberal or even progressive agenda has “led young people to vote more frequently for Democrats and progressive policies than prior generations did when of similar age — as recent elections in Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin have shown.”

Both ideologically and demographically, these voters tilt sharply left.

The Lake-Heller op-ed continues:

About 48 percent of Gen Z voters identify as a person of color, while the boomers they’re replacing in the electorate are 72 percent white. Gen Z voters are on track to be the most educated group in our history, and the majority of college graduates are now female. Because voting participation correlates positively with education, expect women to speak with a bigger voice in our coming elections. Gen Z voters are much more likely to cite gender fluidity as a value, and they list racism among their greatest concerns. Further, they are the least religious generation in our history.

A February 2023 Brookings report, “How Younger Voters Will Impact Elections: Younger Voters Are Poised to Upend American Politics,” noted, “Younger voters should be a source of electoral strength for Democrats for some years to come.”

The authors, Morley Winograd, a senior fellow at the U.S.C. Center on Communication Leadership and Policy, Michael Hais, a consultant, and Doug Ross, a former Michigan state senator, argue that “Younger Americans are tilting the electoral playing field strongly toward the Democrats” and “their influence enabled the Democrats to win almost every battleground state contest” in 2022.

The authors cited 2022 exit poll data for Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania showing a consistent pattern: Voters 45 and older cast majorities for Republicans while those 18 to 44 backed Democrats by larger margins.

There are, conversely, developments suggesting gains for the Republican Party.

On June 8, Gallup reported a steady increase in the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as “social conservatives” — from 30 percent in 2021 to 33 percent in 2022 to 38 percent this year. The percentage describing themselves as very liberal on social issues fell from 34 to 29 percent.

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