Young Voters in Montana Skew Blue

The New York Times carried this page one story about how in the very red state of Montana, a state that went from Mitt Romney last year and John McCain in 2008, millennial voters are strong liberals who don’t see government as the bogeyman.

If it’s happening in Montana and Democrats made big inroads in Orange County last fall, perhaps a Blue County is in our future in this lifetime.

From the NY Times article:

It is no secret that young voters tilt left on social issues like immigration and gay rights. But these students, and dozens of other young people interviewed here last week, give voice to a trend that is surprising pollsters and jangling the nerves of Republicans. On a central philosophical question of the day — the size and scope of the federal government — a clear majority of young people embraces President Obama’s notion that it can be a constructive force, a point he intends to make in his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

“Young people absolutely believe that there’s a role for government,” said Matt Singer, a founder of Forward Montana, a left-leaning though officially nonpartisan group that seeks to engage young people in politics. “At the same time, this is not a generation of socialists. They are highly entrepreneurial, and know that some of what it takes to create an environment where they can do their own exciting, creative things is having basic systems that work.” 

Under-30 voters are “the only age group in which a majority said the government should do more to fix problems,” the nonpartisan Pew Research Center reported in November. In a Pew survey a year earlier, more than 8 in 10 said they believed that Social Security and Medicare had been good for the country, and they were especially supportive of seeing the programs overhauled so they would be intact when they retire. (Young people were also more open than their elders to privatizing the programs.)

And while Washington fights about how to cut the federal deficit, young voters believe that it is more important to create jobs, have affordable access to health care and develop “a world-class education system,” according to the Institute of Politics at Harvard. 

Nationally, voters under 30 accounted for 19 percent of the electorate last year, up from 18 percent in 2008. These millennials are by far the most ethnically and racially diverse voter cohort; whites account for just 58 percent of them, according to the Pew center, while 76 percent of older voters are white.

That diversity is partly why young voters skew liberal, said Scott Keeter, the center’s director of survey research. As more young people come of age, the electorate will grow more diverse. Unless Republicans break the bonds between Democrats and minorities, Mr. Keeter said, “this alignment is going to be baked into the younger generation.”

Kristen Soltis Anderson, who studies young voters for the Winston Group, which advises House Republicans, said her party ignores young voters at its peril. She sees “a real risk” that Republicans could lose millennials in the coming years. 

“When you ask young voters what caused the recession, this whole idea that there wasn’t enough regulation, or it was George W. Bush’s fault, is present,” she said. “When conservatives make the argument, ‘Hey, the government needs to get out of the way and let you make decisions for yourself,’ a lot of young people don’t have this idea of the government as a boogeyman. So it makes the conservative message less resonant.”

There is, of course, no guarantee that millennials will hold onto their current liberal tendencies. Studies show that voters are heavily influenced by the president with whom they came of age; the Franklin D. Roosevelt generation, for instance, stayed Democratic for decades, while many in the Reagan generation remained Republican. 

In Orange County, Democrats are on the rise taking a number of seats in last November’s election locally, statewide and nationally.  We still need to break through at the county level but we have a better message, a track record of better governance, and new party leadership in OC that intends to shake things up.