Take a look at this, drawn from the crosstabs of the recent SurveyUSA poll of Georgia’s U.S. Senate race:
As you can see, the gender gap is quite real: Perdue has an 11-point advantage among men; Nunn has a nine-point advantage among women. But take a look at the age breakdowns, and in particular the two far right columns. Among voters 49 and younger, Democrat Michelle Nunn has a nine-point advantage over Republican David Perdue. Among those 50 and older, Perdue has an 11-point margin.
If you’re a GOP strategist in this state, those numbers have to alarm you about the future. (SurveyUSA numbers are similar in the governor’s race between Nathan Deal and Jason Carter.)
The AJC’s poll taken earlier this month found that same stark divide by age group. For example, voters were asked whether they considered themselves liberal, moderate or conservative:
18-39 40-64 65+
Liberal 40% 18 16
Moderate 27% 25 20
Conservative 28% 55 60
Younger Georgians are a LOT more liberal than their parents and grandparents, and a LOT less conservative. And when asked what party they belong to or at least lean toward, they said:
18-39 40-64 65+
Democratic 57% 43 31
Republican 32% 47 59
Independent 8% 6 7
That’s a 25-point advantage among voters 39 and younger, which is large even by national standards. (In 2012, Obama won the under-30 vote by 23 points.) And contrary to folk wisdom on the subject (as well as Winston Churchill), that isn’t likely to change much. Research consistently shows that the political identification that you establish in your younger years remains stable as you age. As a 2002 study found, “individuals form partisan attachments early in adulthood and … these political identities, much like religious identities, tend to persist or change only slowly over time.”
The Pew Research Center reports similar trends, finding for example that young people who came of age during the Reagan years tended to vote Republican back then and still do today, 30 years later, while those who came of age during the Clinton years tended to vote Democratic initially and still do today. And although I can’t cite research to support me, I suspect that given the increasingly tribal nature of American politics, people today are even less likely than in the past to switch loyalties. For people of all persuasions, that has become just short of an act of treason to your class. I don’t think that’s healthy, but it’s true.
The age breakdowns cited above also help to explain why Republican candidates have such a hard time trying to adapt to changing attitudes and conditions. They have become so heavily reliant on support from older voters that they don’t dare to risk that support by, say, supporting the right of gay people to get married or supporting legalization of undocumented immigrants.
As a result, their problems among young voters get worse and worse, and their senior citizen base gets smaller and smaller.