Democrats’ edge among younger voters shrinking, Harvard poll finds

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When it comes to building winning electoral coalitions, everybody knows people under 40 are among the most reliable voters Democrats have in their pockets. Republicans often don’t even even waste their time trying to cultivate support there, instead focusing on programs like Social Security and “tough on crime” law-and-order issues.

That increasingly isn’t the case anymore, though. A new poll conducted by Harvard University social scientists shows that while Democrats’ edge among young people persists, it has shrunk considerably. And trends indicate it will continue to do so.

Writes Nick Corasaniti in The New York Times:

Indeed, 55 percent of those polled, which included likely voters from ages 18 to 29, preferred a Democrat to maintain control of the White House in 2016, compared to 40 percent who wanted a Republican. But that is a far cry from the 67 percent of millennials who voted for President Obama in 2012. The I.O.P. nationwide poll was conducted online by GfK March 18 to April 1 with a random sample of 3,034 adults aged 18 to 29. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.

“The margin at the moment looks much more like the 2004 race than the Obama campaigns,” said John Della Volpe, the director of polling at the Institute of Politics at Harvard. “If Republicans can hold the Democrat nominee to less than 60 percent of the young vote nationally, their chances are dramatically improved for a Republican electoral college win, in my opinion.

While that doesn’t mean Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio is going to cobble together a majority led by young voters, it does mean that the issue arrangement of candidates around hot button issues is likely to shift in unorthodox ways in the near future.

And for Democrats, it means running a full court press during the 2016 cycle to tighten the screws on their big tent for millennials, with an emphasis on Obama for America style get-out-the-vote efforts. Writes Corasaniti:

Thirty-six percent said they “don’t know” who would be their top choice, and no candidate or potential candidate was able to get more than 10 percent of the millennials surveyed to name them as their top choice.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is a favorite among young Democrats, with 47 percent calling her their top choice, although 28 percent also remain undecided.

Turning these voters out will be a crucial to Mrs. Clinton as she seeks to build upon the coalition that propelled Mr. Obama to two victories. A study after the 2012 election by Tufts University found that the youth vote helped drive Mr. Obama to victory particularly in four critical swing states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia. Had Mr. Romney split the youth vote in those states, he could have won each of them.

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