Partisanship and Political Typology

Subtle Shifts Between 2010 and 2014 Election Cycle Are Evident Among 18- to 24- Year Olds

Compared to the last midterm cycle when we used the KnowledgePanel® methodology for our survey, we find that political party affiliation and self-identified ideology of young Americans under the age of 30 years old to be generally stable. In 2010, 36 percent of 18- to 29- year olds affiliated with the Democratic Party and 23 percent with the Republican party; in 2014, 37 percent affiliate with the Democrats and 24 percent with Republicans. The Independents in 2014 were 40 percent, today they represent 38 percent. However, when 18- 24- year olds and 25- to 29- year olds from 2010 are compared to their same cohorts in 2014, we see subtle shifts. For example, as the table below indicates, Democrats have gained 5 percentage points among 25- to 29- year olds since the last midterm cycle, while they have lost three points among 18- to 24- year olds. Where younger Millennials once held a 15-point Democrat to Republican margin, we now see this margin shifting to 25- to 29- year olds, while the 18-to 24- year olds margin is shrinking.

PARTY IDENTIFICATION BY AGE
 2010 VS. 2014

Since 2010, we have also noted that there has been a three-percentage point increase in the number of 18- to 29- year olds who call themselves moderate — all of that change coming from the youngest cohort (18- to 24- year olds) who in 2010 were 39 percent liberal, 36 percent conservative and 26 moderate; they now consider themselves to be 35 percent liberal, 33 percent conservative and 31 moderate.

Political Typology, Where Democrats and Republicans Converge (and Where They Don’t)

With income inequality and marijuana just two of the pressing issues of the day that illustrate some of the fundamental differences in belief between young Democrats and Republicans, below is analysis that compares Democrats and Republicans across a spectrum of 15 issues that help form the political typology of this generation. Most of the questions were drafted a decade ago by Harvard undergraduates participating in the Institute of Politics polling program and remain relevant today. Each question is designed on a five-point scale, with strong agreement being a “one” and strong disagreement a “five.” As illustrated in the chart below, young Americans of opposing parties are closely aligned only on school choice and privacy policy, and their opinions diverge on issues related to health insurance, same sex relationships, the role of government welfare, affirmative action and climate change.

OBAMA POLITICAL TYPOLOGY OF DEMOCRATS AND REPUBLICANS RANKED BY LEVEL OF AGREEMENT BETWEEN PARTIES (1=STRONGLY AGREE - 5=STRONGLY DISAGREE)
 

Millennials’ Views Toward Privacy, Foreign Policy, Affirmative Action Have Shifted Since 2010

When the responses of these 15 questions are compared with responses from our Spring 2010 poll, we found that young Democrats and Republicans are more closely aligned on their views toward privacy and foreign policy:

  • I am willing to give up some personal freedom and privacy for the sake of national security — since 2010, we have found that Republicans have become less willing to give up personal freedom and privacy, therefore tacking closer to the Democratic position.  In 2010, the mean score on a scale from one (strongly agree) to five (strongly disagree) for Republicans was 2.92, in 2014 it is 3.19 (meaning more disagreement). For Democrats in 2010, the score was 3.18, now its is 3.11.
  • In today's world, it is sometimes necessary to attack potentially hostile countries, rather than waiting until we are attacked to respond — since 2010, we have found that both Republicans and Democratic are more likely to disagree with this position, often referred to as the Bush Doctrine.  In 2010, the mean score on a scale from one (strongly agree) to five (strongly disagree) for Republicans was 2.73, in 2014 it is 3.13 (meaning more disagreement). For Democrats in 2010, the score was 3.34, now its is 3.51.

Conversely, they are less aligned on issues related to immigration,  affirmative action and the moral direction of the country:

  • Qualified minorities should be given  special preferences in hiring and education — since 2010, Democrats (3.36 in 2010, now 3.2) are more likely to agree with this position and Republicans (4.07 in 2010, now 4.12) are more likely to disagree.
  • Recent immigration into this country has done more good than harm — since 2010, Democrats (3.17 in 2010, now 2.9) are more likely to agree with this position and Republicans (3.4 in 2010, now 3.51) are more likely to disagree.
  • I am concerned about the moral direction of the country — since 2010, Democrats (2.61 in 2010, now 2.85) are less likely to agree with this position and Republicans are statistically at the same place (1.97 in 2010, now 1.94).

Majority of 18- to 29- Year Olds Agree That Sexual Orientation Of A Friend Is “Not Important”
In addition to our focus on the income gap between the rich and everyone else, and the legalization of marijuana, our students probed on topics related to diversity, including sexual orientation and affirmative action in education. In the past year, eight states have legalized gay marriage by either state legislature or court decision, bringing the total number of states who recognize same-sex marriage to 17 states. This growing movement to legalize same-sex marriage is reflected in young Americans attitudes towards sexual orientation. Sixty-one percent (61%) of young Americans agree that a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to them, while only 14 percent disagree. Women are six percentage points more likely to state that a friend’s sexual orientation is not important to them than men (64% to 58%).

Blacks and Hispanics Significantly More Likely Than Whites To Agree That Racial Diversity Is Important In College Education.
With the Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas, revelations at Ole Miss, and most recently, the dialogue ignited by I, Too, Am Harvard, racial diversity on college campuses has remained a prevalent issue. Blacks (43%) and Hispanics (43%) are 14 percentage points more likely to agree than Whites (29%) that racial diversity is important to the quality of a college education. Those who identify as “other” races (50%) saw an even larger gap in agreement with Whites (21 percentage points). Conversely, three times as many Whites (25%) disagree with this statement than Blacks (8%).

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