Another day, another piece of news about the Republican Party's continued problems with young voters. Generally, bad news for Republicans with this group isn't shocking. But a new study shows that the slow bleeding that has occurred for more than a decade has seemingly accelerated, with half of the young Republicans who remain having wandered away from the party in the last 14 months.
A few weeks ago, I debunked the notion that younger voters would one day naturally drift back toward the GOP through the natural aging process — that as time passed, young people would become more and more Republican.
Now, an incredible new study by the Pew Research Center shows that Republicans are not only failing to make gains with young people as time passes but are also shedding them at a rapid clip.
To gain this data, Pew conducted a panel study where the same set of voters were interviewed multiple times over the course of 14 months. In doing so, the Pew team was able to ask people what their party affiliation was and to see how often people changed their answer when reinterviewed months later. In general, Pew finds that most party identification is "sticky" and voters rarely budge from their party affiliation.
Except young Republicans.
It's been reported often and for many years that Republicans are losing younger people, but what is most shocking about the Pew study is the narrow window in which this wave of defections occurred. In the relatively short time frame of December 2015 to March 2017, nearly half of all young Republicans left their party at some point, with roughly a quarter bidding the GOP adieu for good.
No other group, by age or party, wavered so much or defected in such substantial numbers.
Let's think about where things stood in December 2015. By that time, Republicans had already had such epic and long-standing struggles with young people that I'd written a whole book about it. Additionally, Republicans had already had a bruising start to their primary season. Donald Trump was the top story in America, the center of every debate stage. At least four presidential primary debates had occurred on the GOP side.
The half of young Republicans who left the party were not ones who left in 2008 because of former President Barack Obama, or ones who left over Republican obstruction in Congress, or even ones who left over the emergence of President Trump as a front-runner in the GOP. By December 2015, those folks were long gone.
No, the half of young Republicans who wobbled or left the party altogether were die-hard enough to be on board with the GOP all the way through the moment that Trump sat well atop the primary polls.
What makes these figures even more striking is the stability of nearly every other age group within both parties. On the Democratic side, roughly three-quarters of their voters stuck with the Democratic Party through and through – including those younger voters who supposedly felt so disillusioned with the Democratic Party over the treatment of Bernie Sanders.
The only other age group that shows anything close to the young Republican level of switching are Democrats on the younger end of the Baby Boomers, among whom a quarter shifted their views and 14 percent of whom left the party for good. These voters no doubt played a large role in the success of Trump in states and counties with many "Reagan Democrats" who were drawn to the GOP with Trump's message. In the short run, the tradeoff seems to have been worth it, at least for Trump, and the higher turnout levels among the Boomer generation made his victory possible.
But the new Pew data makes clear that Republicans' problems with young voters are not just about young independents breaking for Democrats at the ballot box or the increased energy and excitement among young Democrats who are enthusiastically signing up for #TheResistance. Even the Republican Party's own remaining young people show signs of unease, with their increased propensity to wobble or jump ship altogether.
Kristen Soltis Anderson is a columnist for The Washington Examiner and author of "The Selfie Vote."