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Younger voters strongly lean Democratic

April 29, 2008 | 10:38 am

What an odd time for Democrats.

Even as concern grows about the possible cost in November of the protracted fight between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, long-range trends continue to flow in the party's direction.

The latest dose of good news for Howard Dean and other Democratic leaders comes from the estimable Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, which reports a huge tilt toward the party among younger voters. Here are the particulars:

"In surveys conducted between October 2007 and March 2008, 58% of voters under age 30 identified or leaned toward the Democratic Party, compared with 33% who identified or leaned toward the GOP. The Democratic Party's current lead in party identification among young voters has more than doubled since the 2004 campaign, from 11 points to 25 points."

Even more heartening for Dean, et al, is this perspective from the Pew Center analysts:

"Trends in the opinions of America's youngest voters are often a barometer of shifting political winds. And that appears to be the case in 2008. The current generation of young voters, who came of age during the George W. Bush years, is leading the way in giving the Democrats a wide advantage in party identification, just as the previous generation of young people who grew up in the (Ronald) Reagan years -- Generation X -- fueled the Republican surge of the mid-1990s."

Indeed, among all voters, the Pew Center found that ...

51% now identify with the Democrats, compared to 38% who place themselves in the GOP camp -- a significant shift over just four years. The comparable Pew report in 2004 put the breakdown at 47% Democratic, 44% Republican.

The new Pew findings (which can be perused here) line up with actual registration numbers from various states, which throughout the primary season have been mostly favorable for the Democrats.

In North Carolina, for instance, the Raleigh News & Observer recently reported  that of the more than 140,000 residents who signed up to vote since the start of the year, 53% registered as Democrats, 37% as unaffiliated and just 10% as Republicans. Those sorts of figures could make a solidly Republican state in presidential elections more competitive in the future.

In Oregon, a swing state in recent White House contests, year-to-date registration has seen Democrats double their edge in the state, from about 70,000 to 140,000. Here was the lead on the (Portland)  Oregonian story on these numbers: "The Democrats are coming. And they are coming in force."

Even with a rich heritage of becoming crippled by internecine strife, can the Democrats manage to overcome these current advantages?

-- Don Frederick