A Changing Electorate

You can get whiplash from reading the political news.

One story making the media rounds suggests that–despite the non-emergence of a “Red wave” in the 2022 midterms, Republican turnout was better than Democratic turnout. Hard to read that without despairing of the prospects for 2024, despite the fact that midterm turnout by the party that doesn’t hold the White House is almost always reliably bigger.

But then, I came across this article in the Washington Post. Talk about an upper!

The essay was co-authored by Celinda Lake, a Democratic Party strategist and one of two lead pollsters for Biden’s 2020 campaign, and Mac Heller, a documentary filmmaker. Here’s the part that lifted my spirits:

Every year, about 4 million Americans turn 18 and gain the right to vote. In the eight years between the 2016 and 2024 elections, that’s 32 million new eligible voters.

Also every year, 2½ million older Americans die. So in the same eight years, that’s as many as 20 million fewer older voters.

Which means that between Trump’s election in 2016 and the 2024 election, the number of Gen Z (born in the late 1990s and early 2010s) voters will have advanced by a net 52 million against older people. That’s about 20 percent of the total 2020 eligible electorate of 258 million Americans.

And unlike previous generations, Gen Z votes. Comparing the four federal elections since 2015 (when the first members of Gen Z turned 18) with the preceding nine (1998 to 2014), average turnout by young voters (defined here as voters under 30) in the Trump and post-Trump years has been 25 percent higher than that of older generations at the same age before Trump — 8 percent higher in presidential years and a whopping 46 percent higher in midterms.

Not as impressive–but not insignificant–has been the midterm increase of 7% in voter registration among under-30 voters since Gen Z joined the electorate. The authors report that, In midterm elections, “under-30s have seen a 20 percent increase in their share of the electorate, on average, since Trump and Gen Z entered the game.

Interestingly, reactions to Trump don’t turn out to be a major factor for these voters. Polls suggest that Gen Z voters are motivated by “strong passion” on one or more issues — “a much more policy-driven approach than the more partisan voting behavior of their elders.”

That policy-first approach, combined with the issues they care most about, have led young people in recent years to vote more frequently for Democrats and progressive policies than prior generations did when of similar age — as recent elections in Kansas, Michigan and Wisconsin have shown.

Researchers have already demonstrated the fallacy of the long-held belief among political observers that American voters become more conservative as they age. Recent studies show that once political identities are formed, they tend to remain constant. And as the authors of this essay note, “about 48 percent of Gen Z voters identify as a person of color, while the boomers they’re replacing in the electorate are 72 percent White.”

Gen Z voters are on track to be the most educated group in our history, and the majority of college graduates are now female. Because voting participation correlates positively with education, expect women to speak with a bigger voice in our coming elections. Gen Z voters are much more likely to cite gender fluidity as a value, and they list racism among their greatest concerns. Further, they are the least religious generation in our history. No wonder there’s discussion in some parts of the GOP about raising the voting age to 25, and among some Democrats about lowering it to 16!

The fact that younger voters are more likely to be driven by issues rather than partisanship should be very good news for Democrats, since polling demonstrates that Democratic positions align with the policy preferences of a substantial majority of Americans.

But the news isn’t all good. There’s a danger there, too.

The importance of issues, rather than party ID, holds a warning:Both parties should worry about young voters embracing third-party candidates. Past elections show that Gen Z voters shop for candidates longer and respond favorably to new faces and issue-oriented candidates. They like combining their activism with their voting and don’t feel bound by party loyalty. And they can’t remember Ross Perot, Ralph Nader — or even Jill Stein.

GOP support for “No Labels” and RNK, Jr. are evidence that Republicans understand that danger. They know they can’t win a head-to-head campaign between Donald Trump and Biden (or for that matter, between Trump and pretty much any sentient Democrat). Their best hopes for victory lie with the Electoral College and third-party candidates who can peel off votes in selected states that would otherwise go to the Democrats.

Like I said–whiplash.


  1. One positive/negative of being old is living through the political disasters that raise concerns over current events. Cornel West’s candidacy for present representing the Green Party is, for me, a serious concern.

  2. If Joe Biden decided to not run in 2024, who would the Dems run? I do not see any candidates that excite me and I wonder if it the same for others?

  3. Cornel West and RFK, Jr. shouldn’t present a concern for anyone except die-hard Democrats or Biden supporters. However, Biden supporters are dying off, as the article details. The legacy media already has reneged on their dealings over giving Trump too much coverage. They created the monster and admitted their faults but continue giving him ample free coverage.

    Yet, the same legacy media wonders why it’s dying with the population. 😉

    I see third-party candidates and RFK as positives. The woke crowd will embrace RFK’s policies of anti-war and anti-oligarchy. Those still embracing legacy media who have closed minds will embrace the propaganda.

    Let’s face it, Biden has been part of the problem for 40+ years because he embraces the oligarchy, and the MIC owns him. Ukraine was the most corrupt Nazi-filled European country before 2014 – that’s a fact. The current stories leaking about the military and black markets should surprise no one.


  4. I suspect that adding to these demographic changes in the electorate there is now, and will continue to be, a massive change in the electorate’s mindset about climate change. The danger is now at everyone’s doorstep, and Republicans in particular will take a hit as their lies for the last twenty years about what is happening come home to roost.

  5. It’s good to know these statistics – gives hope to those of us who are active Dems and provides useful info for encouraging and educating the younger voters on how important their votes are.

  6. In the early 1970s, in intercollegiate debate, the dominant approaches used “spreads” (speaking at a rate of 200 to 230 words per minute), advancing “squirrel” arguments (arcane and attenuated, relative to the topic & for which the opponent had no evidence) and arguments advanced for the goal of “time suck” (the opponent had to cover the argument and had little time to spare on the other 50 or 60 arguments advanced). I read that R.E.M. recorded “It’s the End of the World as We Know It” after one of its members heard a round of debate at UGA (& the debate featured disads – i.e., adoption of the affirmative plan) would end in annihilation of the World. So I took the time to read the article for which Mr Smekens provided a link. To put Mr Smeken’s link to rest: Ukraine was not outrageously corrupt or run by a government filled with Nazis. Jeffrey Veidlinger, a professor of History and Judaic Studies at University of Michigan, wrote in an opinion piece for PBS, “Analysis: Putin’s claim that war on Ukraine is to target Nazis is absurd. Here’s why,” on 02/28/22: “Putin’s selective telling of the past exaggerates the legacy of Nazism in Ukraine while ignoring the state’s historic struggle for pluralism and democracy. There is a good reason for this: he fears democracy more than he fears Nazism.” I’ll add that the link Mr Smekens provides is an item from The Cato Institute. As Source Watch notes: “The Cato Institute is a libertarian think tank founded by Charles G. Koch and funded by the Koch brothers.” An ad hominem argument is one of the fallacies in formal logic. However, here the link is to a roup that routinely misrepresents facts (I’d provide “links” but just Google “Who funds the Cato Institute?”) The talking point Mr Smekens puts forth are crap. That was effective as a time suck, but hey – I don’t have a time keeper.

  7. Those who are most likely to run hard on single issues – “progressives”. When they run in DEM primaries, they often win as their supporters (perhaps, many young people) turn out on the issue(s). We, CommonGoodGoverning, watched this in the 2020 US House elections where the LEFT was very active and tracked the data…

    We tracked 21 races in districts slightly favored to be won by GOP. The DEMs nominated progressive candidates. All 21 lost. Not super surprising.

    More surprising? In 20/21 of the districts, the “progressive” DEM candidate did worse in the general election than the “moderate” DEMs did in BOTH 2016 and 2018.

  8. Excellent posts of late…and ever more so with the equally excellent ‘Reply’ remarks! Thank you.

  9. As long as Biden and the Democrats – try to play “the middle” on issues related to the Issues – being REACTIVE – rather than pro-active – being the: “Anti-Trump”, “Anti-Republican”, and similar – and don’t confront the real fears – of the voters who matter – including both turnout and the supposed – “middle of the road” voters – their problems will persist. Abortion and similar – Even Racism – can activate important constituencies that need to turn out in large numbers. Economic fears, Education Fears, Housing Fears and similar – are real – among many – Not all of us are Techies and/or those with High Incomes and Stock Holdings. Constant begging for money – and minimal – effective messaging – vs. – Plays on Deep Fears – of white people – we – loosing our dominance in a changing world – which build a constituency – who are Manipulated over and over and over again – and yet they – buy the lies. Being “clever” is often more important than – Strutting and Pushing One’s “Intelligence”. Things can end up positive, but not with bungling – and the Divide and Conquer – strategies working (again).

  10. My concern is that caring people don’t like conflict overall. If all they see is parties at each other’s throats they might be less inclined to participate In the political system. I can say that for myself. I used to be the kind of person that just kept quiet. I see now that I can’t be quiet because of the damage they have already done and want to do. I encourage anyone who lives in Indiana to go visit the Candles Holocaust Museum to see how the Jews were treated by the Nazis. How they were made to be “the other” and “lesser”. The hate crimes occurring in this country right now against black people are our warning signal.

  11. My top two comments about your post. 1. The statistics show old people, not necessarily Biden supporters are dying off. I suspect there are at least as many as, if not more than, right wing supporters among the elderly than among the younger generations percentage wise.
    2. War and black markets always go together. Likewise proliferation of weapons and associated violence are bound to occur in war-torn countries. That this is happening in Ukraine is, indeed, not surprising, but tells us nothing more than the fact that war in Ukraine is just like any other war. The fault lies with Putin for starting the war, not with the Ukrainians for defending themselves nor with the U.S. for helping them.
    I can’t resist adding that I see third party candidates, especially RFK Jr , as Trump’s best hope for re-election and as far from positive as it is possible to get.

  12. I saw the Post article and took hope from it.
    Still, I do worry about the 3rd party candidates, and wish that Biden will
    address the issue LOUDLY.
    Nancy’s point about voters and the climate change gaslighting of the
    fossil fuel companies, and their fans in congress rings true to these ears.
    I expect that to be very true for the younger folks.

  13. When more people vote, Democrats win (mostly). For many years I voted Libertarian, then that party was coopted by Southside Baptist Church, an early supporter of White Christian Nationalism. I was a ticket splitter for some time, then along came the Donald. When I saw that and the way he was manipulating the GOP, I realized I could only vote straight ticket Democratic. I had watched the GOP get a little loonier every year since Sarah Palin, so there were no surprises when they went completely around the bend. I can’t vote for a third party candidate until the danger has passed. Vote Blue!

  14. I don’t know if all the public understands these people rallying for “ the good old days”. What they mean by that. It’s easy to think “oh they just mean when things weren’t so politically charged” I can support that! Amen! But that is not what these people shouting about “the good old days” mean at all. The conversation needs to move forward about things that affect people’s daily lives. What about mass school shootings? What about climate change? What about Ai Technology? What about the affordability of housing and groceries and education? What about the power of corporations and wealth in our politics? What about the loss of bodily autonomy for women because of the overturn of Roe vs. Wade? What about sex trafficking? I’m starting to realize all this focus on Race, Immigrants, and LGBTQ is just an attempt to try and blame liberals for cancel culture and the culture war going on. Plus they want people to think that liberals support minorities and the downtrodden more than the everyday person just trying to make ends meet. Maybe we should prioritize showing the everyday person that’s not a minority that we care about their concerns too even if we are trying to safeguard the most vulnerable.

  15. One view of American politics is that it’s just a playground squabble between two kids each demanding support from the other for their opinion about some mythical legend that has no correct answer.

    It is that, at least partially, but it also is a squabble over adapting to an inevitable future or refusing to leave a comfortable past, which is a critical national decision.

    If there’s one thing to be learned from Charles Darwin it’s that adaptation is how life relies on real world experience to choose the winners and losers. Ma nature just ain’t fooling’ ‘round!


  16. Read and weep – NOT FACT CHECKED – 8% of American voters determined 83% of congressional seats in the recent midterms

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