MEMO: Millennials and the GOP two months before the midterms

To: Interested parties

From: Evan Siegfried

Subject: Millennials and young voters of all ethnicities continue to show disdain for GOP: Strong economy and tax cuts not being felt by America’s largest generation; Hispanic millennials lining up against Republican Party; demographic shift will benefit Democratic candidates in 2018 and beyond, as GOP has failed to adapt

Date: September 4, 2018

Millennials (people born from 1981-1996) are now officially the largest generation in the American labor force. Already the biggest generation in the country, numbering over 83 million, they are expected to overtake Baby Boomers as the biggest portion of the electorate in the United States next year. Additionally, they are the most diverse generation in American history, with 44 percent being a minority, which is up from 25 percent minority among Baby Boomers. The demographic shift in America is noticeable and transforming the electorate.

All of this is bad news for the Republican Party, as it has struggled — and in some cases willfully declined — to adapt to the changing demographic landscape in the United States. Over the past six years, study after study and poll after poll have revealed that only one in five millennials consider themselves a member of or identify with the Republican Party and/or its ideals. Most recently, this was confirmed in the August 2018 NBC News/GenForward survey of Americans 18-34.

When party identification is broken down by ethnicity, an even larger problem is revealed. Just 7 percent of African American millennials, 11 percent of Hispanic millennials, 16 percent of Asian American millennials, and 28 percent of white millennials identify as Republican. In contrast, Democrats have a plurality of minority millennial party identification, as 45 percent of African American and Asian American millennials, and 41 percent of Hispanic millennials identify as Democrat. The plurality of white millennials, 30 percent, identify as independent, while 27 percent as Democrat.

Among those millennials who are Republicans, the majority are not wedded to the party. Overall, 58 percent of millennial Republicans, 60 percent of Asian American millennials, 74 percent of Hispanic millennials, and 56 percent of white millennials say that they are “not very strong Republicans.” African American Republicans are the only demographic that majority of, 63 percent, consider themselves to be “strong Republicans.” This reinforces a trend shown in prior polling in November 2017, January 2018, March 2018, and June 2018.

This leads to the obvious question of whether or not the GOP is shrinking among millennial Republicans. In May 2017, it was revealed that 23 percent of young Republicans (18-29) left the party between December 2015 and March 2017. During this same time period, only 8 percent of young Democrats left the party. While no reason was attributed for nearly one out of every four young Republicans abandoning the GOP, it is safe to assume that a combination of the rise of Donald Trump, as well as GOP candidates and officials feeding the narrative that the party is intolerant and engages in a war on women, certainly fueled this exodus. It is likely that this trend has continued, as the Republican Party has seen party identification drop among all Americans since Donald Trump took office.

The polls from NBC News/GenForward referenced earlier, reveal an even more troubling belief among millennials that the GOP does not care about them. When asked “Do you think the Republican Party cares about people like you, or not?,” 69 percent of respondents answered that the party does not. Broken down by ethnicity, the August 2018 NBC News/GenForward poll shows that over three quarters or more of millennial minorities hold this belief (85 percent of African Americans, 76 percent of Asian Americans, and 75 percent of Hispanics). While 62 percent of white millennials believe that the GOP cares about them.

Latino millennials present a particular problem for the Republican Party. At present, they are almost half of the entire Hispanic electorate and were 44 percent of it in 2016. For this millennial demographic, the top issue facing the nation is immigration, followed closely behind by racism. This does not bode well for Republicans in November, as the GOP is attempting to rally the base by making immigration a central theme of the election.

A common belief among Republican officials is that the millennial problem will fix itself, as people become more conservative and vote GOP as they get older. They often point to when younger Americans “get jobs and have to pay taxes,” as why. However, this is simply not occurring. The oldest millennials in America are 37 and the youngest just shy of 22. The majority have a full-time job and pay taxes. Despite this, there has not been the swing to the Republican Party that these party figures have been predicting. This should be especially alarming for GOP leaders, as millennials are the most fiscally conservative generation since the Great Depression.

Republican candidates and the party itself are touting the incredibly strong economy and the tax cuts passed in December 2017, as reasons to vote for them in November. However, Americans overall have stated that they are not feeling a positive impact from either. According to a recent Economist/YouGov, 19 percent of Americans overall, 15 percent of women, 17 percent of independents, 16 percent of Americans 18-29, and 17 percent of Americans 30-44 say that they now pay less in taxes. It essentially negates the effectiveness of the tax cuts as an issue for Republicans.

The booming economy is also not being felt by many voters, including millennials. The same Economist/YouGov poll found that 66 percent of Americans say that their personal finances have either remained the same or gotten worse than they were a year ago. Only 16 percent of Americans 18-29 and 22 percent of those 30-44 say their financial situation has improved over the past year. The economy might be strong, but many Americans, including millennials, do not feel that they are benefiting from it.

The perception among millennials that the economy and the tax cuts have not aided them does not bode well for GOP candidates, as well as the Republican Party itself. Americans, including millennials, hold a combined $1.3 trillion worth of student debt, and 34 percent more people in 2011 were likely to have taken out students loans than in 1989. The average cumulative amount borrowed also increased by more than 72 percent in the same period; 63 percent of millennials hold over $10,000 in student debt. According to a September 2017 analysis by the Federal Reserve, the average amount of student debt held by millennials with student loans was being $32,9000. (By comparison, the cumulative credit card debt in America, which is the highest ever, is only $1.021 trillion.) Student debt negatively impacts women more than men, as they hold about two-thirds of the total debt even as pay inequity causes it to take longer for women to pay off the same amount of debt as a man… a big problem for a party that is already struggling with women voters of all ages.

And Republicans have not taken any action to address the student debt crisis impacting the United States. Instead, we have ceded this ground to Democrats and failed to establish ourselves as a credible voice when it comes to the issue of student debt.

Millennials also do not believe that the country is headed in the right direction. This morning, a poll released by USA Today/Suffolk University found that just 27 percent of Americans 18-34 say that the country is going in the right direction, but 62 percent believe that the United States is headed in the wrong direction.

And all of these factors will come into play in this November’s midterm elections.

There is the charge that younger voters do not show up to the polls on election day and are unreliable voters. The evidence at hand strongly suggests that this will not be the case in November. Overall turnout among millennials in the 2016 presidential election was just shy of half, sitting at 49.4 percent. This was an increase of 2.5 million millennial voters from the 2012 presidential election when only 46.4 percent voted. In the 2017 elections, millennial turnout also noticeably increased. In the Virginia gubernatorial election, 34 percent of young voters cast a ballot, a significant increase from the 26 percent who did the same in the 2013 race and the 17 percent in the 2009 election. Since then, we are seeing more and more indicators of this trend continuing.

Earlier this year, a Pew Research Center study found that enthusiasm about the midterm elections has significantly increased among millennial voters. 62 percent of millennials are looking forward to the midterm elections, which is up from 46 percent in 2014 and 39 percent in 2010. When it comes to Gen X, Baby Boomers, and the Silent generation, their enthusiasm level for these three midterm cycles has remained relatively stagnant. In a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this morning, voters 18-29 favored voting for Democrats over Republicans by 23 points. Additionally, it found a 17 point increase since January 2018 among registered voters 18-29 who say they are certain to vote in the midterms.

As the result of higher engagement and activity among millennials, there has been a surge in voter registration in many states throughout the country. Take Pennsylvania, where Democrats seek to add several seats to help obtain the majority in the House of Representatives. Today registered voters under the age of 35 now outnumber those who are 65 or older, while registered young Democrats outnumber young Republicans by 400,000. Underscoring the enthusiasm are the new voter registrations in PA. Two-thirds of those who registered to vote are under the age of 30. Similar situations are playing out in Virginia, Arizona, New York, Florida and other states. This could very well impact competitive House seats that Republicans need to hold, including the PA-5 (open), PA-7 (open), AZ-2 (open), VA-2 (Taylor), VA-7 (Brat), VA-10 (Comstock), NY-19 (Faso), NY-22 (Tenney), NJ-3 (MacArthur), and NJ-7 (Lance).

If millennial turnout increases as expected, it will couple with the erosion of white, married suburban women from the Republican Party, as well as the enthusiasm among the Democratic base to likely hand control of the House of Representatives to the Democratic Party.

Beyond 2018, the shifting demographics in the United States are to the advantage of Democrats. The number of white voters without a college degree is decreasing. In 2016, the plurality of the electorate, 63.25 million or 46 percent, was non college-educated whites. This voting bloc proved vital for Donald Trump, as 66 percent voted for him. However, this part of the electorate is expected to decrease in the 2020 election, making it 44 percent of the electorate, and 37 percent by 2036.

Over this same period, the share of the electorate held by African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans will expand. The percentage of electorate that is Hispanic is expected to increase by half from 12 percent in 2016 to 18 percent by 2036. College-educated whites are expected to slightly increase their share of the electorate in 2020, going from 22 percent in 2016 to 23 percent. However, they are predicted to return to 22 percent by 2036.

As the data clearly demonstrates, the Republican Party has so far failed to adapt and win over millennial voters of all races. GOP leaders ignored the 2012 election autopsy and repeated the erroneous mantra that millennials will become conservative when they age and get jobs. The surprise election of Donald Trump in November 2016 had the unintended consequence of providing false reassurance that the Republican Party is in strong shape. It resulted in the continued belief that we do not have a looming demographic problem.

However, all data and evidence demonstrate that this train of thought is erroneous.

Elections held in 2017, as well as so far in 2018, have clearly demonstrated the the demographic shift in the electorate has begun to noticeably impact elections, as well as coupled with women voters and an energized Democratic base to the detriment of the GOP candidates and the Republican Party. This trend will continue in the midterm 2018 elections.

Instead of attempting to bring millennials into the fold and become a more inclusive party, the GOP and its allies have pushed them further away. We frequently mock them and push a false narrative that they are “entitled,” “lazy,” “want free stuff,” and are “brainwashed by liberal professors.” The insults are counterproductive. Alternatively, Republicans should focus on and address the issues that are important to millennials. Doing so would begin what will be a lengthy process made longer by the party’s willful ignorance toward the largest generation in the United States.

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