The Trump Effect on Young Voters is Real

Exit Polling Confirms A Feared Trend

The 2018 midterm elections are over and whether there was a blue wave depends a lot of the expectations you had going into Tuesday. One question was the extent to which there would be a backlash from strongly anti-Trump young people, who warned that they would show up and send a message. Usually, turnout among young voters is poor, so such threats can be shaken off, but this time exit polling contains bad news for Trump and Republicans

The first part of the bad news for the Trump GOP is that young voter turnout was “yuge.” According to an exit poll analysis by Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist with the firm TargetSmart, the share of voters ages 18-39 increased 6% in 2018 over the last midterm election in 2014. Every demographic showed up to the polls in much larger numbers than 4 years ago, including voters aged 50+, but whereas only about 50% more voters over 50 voted in 2018, participation by those 39 and under nearly tripled. CNN’s exit polling gives an even higher number for the 18-39 age bracket.

The second piece of bad news is that young voters, who traditionally lean left, were even more likely than usual to support Democrats. NPR reports Bonier’s findings as follows: “Roughly two-thirds of 18- to 29-year-olds voted for Democrats today. In the previous two midterms, that number was closer to a simple majority. Exit polls show that in 2014, 54 percent supported Democrats and in 2010, 55 percent supported Democrats.” CNN’s exit polling shows similar results.

Of course, anyone who thinks this election is the most important of their lifetime (like everyone since 2008) might consider the short-term win of getting President Trump worth the cost of long-term losses as young people begin to take over the largest share of the vote from aging Baby Boomers. On the other hand, anyone who takes the long view about the electoral success of a conservative party in America will find their fears confirmed.

Trump’s 2016 victory comes with the danger that the GOP will be unusually toxic to the rising generation of voters. Older generations tend to vote for more conservative parties, so there is likely to be a shift, but picture starting from a 10-point deficit with millennials and Gen-Zers. That is probably the worst case scenario, but there is no interpretation that isn’t bad.

Even if Trump is temporarily toxic, he will be on the ballot in 2020 and, should he win, will be president in 2022. It isn’t hard to envision an Obama-era Democratic Party sort of electoral disaster, where the president continues to win, while his party suffers losses. (Yes, Republicans picked up Senate seats, but Democrats won’t always be defending the vast majority of seats. That performance is unlikely to recur.)

Eventually young people won’t be young anymore. Young Christians, typically reliable Republican voters, have loosened their ties to the GOP, which no hang by the single thread of pro-life values. For some, the weight of all the other issues with the Trump era Republican Party is too much. They’ve become independent, even voted Democrat. For now, the sheer number and turnout rates of older Republicans keep the party relatively successful at the ballot box. The trade-off appears to be a long-term loss of the younger generation and perhaps their openness to move right in the future.

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Ron Black
Ron Black

The Republicans in the 2018 midterms campaigned their undying support for pre-existing conditions aka Obamacare.

Sure, all politicians lie, but this was Twilight Zone stuff: these were politicians who only 24 months earlier were swearing they would repeal Obamacare.

The only way that kind of campaign works is if you have absolute airtight control over information.

In other words, the only Americans who actually believed this lie were the ones that left the TV on Fox News and the radio station on Rush.

You don't have to look any further than the commercials to see what sort of people tune in to these channels--Depends and catheters are not very interesting to the 25-45 demo.

Republicans got addicted to their captive audience 15 years ago and they had a good run. Now they are dying off and that's over now, as is the GOP as a party.


My hair isn't on fire over this because I know that Trump will soon join Bush and Obama in happy retirement and that McConnell will soon join the Father almighty and when that happens, a new generation of younger, more ideologically committed, leaders will emerge and draw in all of those voters Trump scared off, especially since Democrats are only getting crazier.

And just in case anyone reading this didn't get the memo, young people don't like Trump because he's trying to force the world to work in a way that it doesn't anymore, is a lousy lazy uncouth slug and a throwback to everything that sucked about the sleazy seventies. You might call me a melting snowflake but I don't think there's anything wrong about asking for a modicum of decency in our President, who failing everything else should at least be an honorable and pius man, of which Trump is neither.


The 2018 midterm election results support the idea that younger Americans lean strongly toward the left, but election results alone cannot explain the reason for this lean. I submit it may be related to the idea that the American education system -- from Kindergarten to Graduate School -- increasingly resembles the Ministry of Propaganda for the Democratic Party. Anyone in school today is to a certain extent taught that Trump is a deranged madman, and Republican Party policies represent blind devotion to this madman. Simultaneously, large numbers of students get much of their "news" from left-leaning "sources" like Facebook and "The Daily Show."

Multiple sources also suggest that education today is ineffective in teaching basic history and civics, with recent graduates unable to answer basic questions about topics such as the number or branches of government, or the primary combatants in World War II.

Finally, there is the fact that the parents of today's children tend to be a product of that same pro-Democrat, history and civics-lacking education system.

The Republican party could have the best message in the world, supported by irrefutable logic, but it would still have difficulty prevailing in the current education climate.


I have a serious question. How many people actually talk with, or ask, young voters WHY they are voting as they do?

First think we need to understand is they are different in some key ways.

  • Education. They are 2-4x more likely to have a college education than their grandparents. We also know that, for now, most educated voters are voting Dem.
  • Young women are now more educated than their male counterpart. This is likely boosting the gender gap in the results.
  • 44% of young people are not white, compared with just 21% of their grandparents.
  • They are much less likely to be religious, if they are, it's less likely to be Christianity. (different pew article)

For obvious reason they care more about what happens in 20-50 years than their parents. So they are more likely to care about climate change, and not be willing to take the "it's happening, but it's too expensive or hard to solve" position of the GOP. Hard or not, they will have to live, or try to, with the result.

They are more tech savy, and for those that are, things like the GOPs behavior on net neutrality was downright galling. The tech industry skews heavily young, They see the GOP outright lying about this topic, as viewed by the people in the trenches working in the industry, and they talk to their friends.

None of this even covers the fact that outside of farmland, most young people know of or have friends from other countries. The immigration rhetoric is a problem.

Add that all up and you get a 31 point Dem bias. I don't see what is at all surprising. Trump is playing a rural, white, evangelical strategy. He is winning them, at a cost.