05.02.2018 0

Reality check: There is no millennial surge for Republicans in 2018

By Robert Romano

It’s time for a reality check. On the generic ballot poll question, Republicans are doing no better among 18-to-34-year-olds than they were in 2014, when the GOP won the midterm elections or in 2016 when President Donald Trump was elected.

But you wouldn’t get that impression from a recent headline-grabbing poll from Reuters-Ipsos that found “Enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials as its candidates head into the crucial midterm congressional elections.”

You see, on the generic ballot question found that among 18-to-34-year-olds, the Democrats’ advantage dropped from 55 percent to 27 percent in 2016 to a more realistic 46 percent to 28 percent today.

This is resulted in some pretty misleading headlines. For example, The Hill reported, “Democrats losing support of millennials: poll” and Fox News found “Millennials not high on Dems, think GOP better at economy, new poll says.”

That last part was actually wrong, too. Democrats actually beat Republicans on the economy question, too, 34 percent to 32 percent in the Reuters-Ipsos poll. What Reuters had actually reported was that younger voters “increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy,” meaning the GOP was improving on the economy question, perhaps on account of the recently enacted tax cuts. But Reuters never said they were leading that question among younger voters.

Leaving that aside, perhaps what changed was improvement to Reuters-Ipsos’ sampling, although the results are still highly skewed because the poll is directed at registered voters rather than likely voters. Suffice to say, it’s not the most useful poll.

A look at other polls taken over a period of several cycles probably gives you a better idea of these results compared to other cycles. Let’s take the Fox News poll as an example since it provided age breakdowns similar to Reuters-Ipsos for the last two election cycles.

In 2014, among likely voters, Democrats edged Republicans among 18-to-34-year-olds 45 percent to 33 percent.

In 2016, among likely voters, the margin was 49 percent to 40 percent.

Today, Fox News at least for this part of the cycle so far is only providing age data for under-45-years-olds and over-45-years-olds, but they still give you a hint of what’s happening on the ground.

There, Democrats lead under-45-years-olds 49 percent to 38 percent.

The results are in fact very consistent. Younger voters tend to vote Democrat, and have for the past few generations. Where Republicans have made up for it in past cycles is among older voters. In 2014, for example, Republicans led every age demographic over 35-years old handily.

In 2016, Republicans captured 35-to-54-year-olds very well 51 percent to 39 percent and were roughly split on those 55 years old and older.

This year, Republicans even in the Fox News poll are losing the generic ballot question among over-45-year-olds 44 percent 43 percent.

So, if anything, if there’s a generational shift in voting attitudes this cycle it’s among older voters, who favored Republicans in 2014 and were split in 2016.

In fact, there has not been a single poll this year reported by Real Clear Politics that has found Republicans in the lead on the generic ballot question.

Of course, none of that appears to be stopping anyone from whistling past the graveyard proclaiming that Republicans are gaining ground amongst millennial voters. No, they’re not.

That is not to deride efforts to make in-roads, an absolute imperative for the GOP. The fact is, Republicans are performing about as well as they can among millennials and they need every last supporter they can get.

Where Republicans are definitely underperforming is among their base supporters who are older.

Which is little wonder. They promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but failed. They promised to provide funding for President Donald Trump’s southern border wall, but failed.

As a result, a recent poll by McLaughlin & Associates on behalf of the Ear to the Ground Listening Project found 57 percent of likely voters disapprove of the Republican majority in Congress, including 32 percent of Trump voters, 25 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of independents.

Yes, Republicans have the tax cuts. They repealed the Obamacare individual mandate. They allowed oil drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. They repealed several Obamacare midnight regulations. They confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.

But it’s not enough. Republicans have to see the writing on the wall and dare to be bold in 2018 while they still can.

This year, so far, Republicans in Congress are providing almost no leadership on a legislative agenda that achieves their objectives. They have a lame duck House Speaker, Paul Ryan, who is retiring. Supposedly there will be a leadership election later this summer. What are they waiting for? Where’s the urgency?

To break the paradigm, Republicans must lead in the House with new leadership and where they still have a clear majority, passing bills that their base wants. Then House members will be able to say they did their jobs, thus putting the onus on the 10 Senate seats up in states that President Trump carried in 2016: Florida, North Dakota, Indiana, Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Right now, nothing is moving in Congress, and Republicans expect voters to, what, just gravitate towards them? Where’s the leadership in Congress? President Trump can’t do everything. The GOP is resting on its laurels and Congress needs to get moving on its agenda soon that invigorates their base voters, not fantasize about picking up millennial voters.

Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government.

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