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An Unlikely (But Possible) Generation of Young Trump Voters

An Unlikely (But Possible) Generation of Young Trump Voters

Editor’s Note: This is a slightly updated version of a post I wrote for Political Wire earlier this week.

For the Clinton campaign, the nightmare scenario was always that Millennials wouldn’t show up at the polls, or that they would choose to vote third party. But in some of the most crucial swing states in America, it looks like the nation’s youngest voters might have affirmatively showed up to vote for Donald Trump.

As Taegan Goddard at Political Wire pointed out last week, analysis prepared by Will Jordan at YouGov show that if Hillary had received the same support among Millennials as Obama, she would have won 308 electoral votes.

But zooming in on the individual states that swung the Electoral College to Trump presents a slightly different picture. In particular, exit polling from the “Trump Belt” ranging from the Upper Midwest through the Rust Belt points to a growing rift between the nation’s youngest voters and their slightly older counterparts.

You should always take exit polling with a grain of salt, but such data can often point to places worthy of further inquiry. Take Wisconsin for example.

CNN’s exit polling there show’s Hillary winning voters ages 25 to 29 by nine points while losing voters under 25 by two points.

And in neighboring Minnesota—where Trump came within about 50,000 votes of winning—the youngest voters also bucked their slightly older cohort. Hillary won voters ages 25 to 29 by nine points, but losing voters under 25 by five (!) points.

This effect doesn’t show up in Michigan and Ohio, but in Pennsylvania, Hillary won voters ages 25-29 by 13 points and voters 18-24 by only 5 points. And these younger voters were much less likely to vote third party, suggesting they were active Trump supporters.

Again, the data here could be a fluke, especially when this effect doesn’t seem to show up elsewhere in places like North Carolina or Florida. One interesting theory is that young people in places like the Rust Belt and Upper Midwest may have been more dramatically affected by their parents’ political views, which were very sour on Hillary Clinton and much more open to the idea of voting for Donald Trump.

More than finding anything determinative in this very limited data, it’s time for a real reexamination of young voters in this country. They were the most unheralded and underappreciated portion of the Obama coalition, and the assertion that they will simply never join a Trump coalition is a dangerous one. And as we just saw in 2016, a movement of only 5% of this cohort in a handful of states is enough to cost Democrats a national election.

In other words, anyone tempted to say that Donald Trump is cooked in 2020 needs to consider the real possibility that the next generation of young voters in crucial states may be significantly more pro-Trump than anticipated. The Clinton campaign certainly learned a big lesson the hard way—it only takes the slightest movement in the loyalties of young voters to spell electoral devastation.


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