Millennials Are Turning Against Obama and the Democrats, And Here are 3 Reasons Why
Well, this doesn't look good. According to a new poll from Harvard University's Institute of Politics, millennial voters are apparently giving up on President Obama and the Democratic Party, favoring a Republican-led Congress instead. It is, of course, only one poll, and it's important not to let possible outliers get everyone whipped up. But it's nonetheless precisely the kind of news the Democratic Party doesn't need, with a fraught and potentially damaging midterm election just days away.
In simplest terms, the poll found a striking shift in millennial support for a GOP-led Congress over the last four years. Back in 2010, polling found that millennials (defined as between ages 18 to 29) supported the Democrats controlling Congress by a majority margin of 55 percent to 43 percent. But now, those numbers have done a flip-flop — millennials now favor a GOP Congress by a margin of 51 percent to 47 percent.
Now, consider that with those higher 2010 levels of millennial support, that year's midterm elections still essentially brought a blood-red wave of Republican victories across the country. Things went so poorly for the Democrats that many feared the passage of the Affordable Care Act had torpedoed Obama's reelection chances in 2012. Starting to see why this is so concerning for Obama and his party?
The Democrats are already facing longish odds come Nov. 4 — FiveThirtyEight pegs their chances to hold control of the Senate at just 37.7 percent as of this writing — and if their bottom falls out with younger voters, things could get ugly pretty quick. If a mere six Senate seats turn red for 2015, the Republicans will control both houses of Congress for the remainder of President Obama's term. And if this happens, you'll likely see the GOP will slow his domestic agenda to a halt, casting Obama as a so-called "lame duck" president on his way out the door in 2016.
So why are millennials shifting to the GOP?
They Still Dislike Republicans, But They're Disillusioned
It's worth noting that the polling isn't exactly a motherlode for the Republicans, either. Millennials don't like them very much at all, with the congressional GOP's approval rating languishing at a paltry 23 percent. As such, this drop in Democratic support is being interpreted — fairly, I'd argue — as more of a sign of disillusionment, or disdain for the politicians many younger voters worked so hard to elect.
This "pox on both their houses" angle was expressed by the Harvard Institute of Politics' Polling Director, John Della Volpe.
While Democrats have lost ground among members of America's largest generation, millennial views of Republicans in Congress are even less positive. Both parties should re-introduce themselves to young voters, empower them and seek their participation in the upcoming 2016 campaign and beyond.
This is, at the very least, some mild comfort for the Democrats — they're not exactly losing ground to the opposition, but losing ground to themselves. But it's still a complex problem to solve, maybe moreso than the alternative. What do you do when the cool kids just aren't as into you anymore?
Latinos May Be Getting Tired of Obama...
There are some devastating takeaways, however. Of particular note, and a very bad sign for Democrats, this is apparently extremely true of Latino millennials. As The Hill's Amie Parnes observed, Obama boasted a sky-high approval rating with Latino millennials back in 2009, a staggering 81 percent. Now? It's just 49 percent.
While it's reductive to talk as though immigration issues are the only drivers of voter sentiment in the Latino community, it seems fair to consider whether this harrowing decline is thanks to the stagnant status-quo on immigration reform.
...And That Immigration Delay Probably Didn't Help
While Obama has always supported the idea publicly, and would have probably signed a comprehensive reform bill a dozen times over by now if not for the Republican-led House, he drew a lot of ire after deciding to delay a planned executive order on immigration until after the midterm elections.
The decision was broadly seen as a political one, aiming to avoid whipping up Republican fervor ahead of so many hotly contested races. But it may have had an even more costly side-effect: reminding Latino voters that for all Obama's earnest pro-immigration rhetoric, and six long years of waiting, the promises were still quickly shelved out of political convenience. A delay of even a few months, after all, isn't some academic event for the undocumented people living within the U.S. — when you're living under threat of deportation, every day is pivotal.
All in all, this isn't exactly looking great for the Democrats, and that's a shame — whatever disappointments have been felt by the millennials surveyed in the Harvard poll, there's little doubt that the policies and values implemented by a Republican-controlled government would be met with even greater disdain. But there's no guarantee that long-view thinking will be on display come Nov. 4, so strap yourselves in for a long night.
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