Young People Voting Democrat

John Hinderaker laments

Harvard’s Institute of Politics released a poll yesterday that showed millennials’ trust in government at a historic low. This chart shows how many respondents said that they trust the entity in question to do the right thing either all of the time or most of the time. Notably, 20% of millennials said they trust the federal government to do the right thing; 32% said they trust the president; and 14% trust Congress. State and local governments (and, appallingly, the United Nations) fared a little better, but distrust of government is clearly the order of the day....

Which raises, not for the first time, a question I can’t answer: why do people who don’t trust government keep voting for more of it? For a long time, young people have voted mostly Democrat. Which means they are voting to give more of their money, and more control over their lives, to government–especially the federal government. Why would they do that, if only 20% of them trust the federal government to do the right thing?

I won't give a simplistic answer to a complex social issue, but I have a theory that explains at least part of this: gay marriage and other social issues.  I get a chance to work with young people a lot, and generally they don't seem to be focused on tax and regulatory issues.  They haven't been deep enough into the productive economy (and many will be convinced by their universities never to enter the productive economy) to understand the effects of government interventionism in the economy.

But one thing young people do know is that they are absolutely turned off by the social conservatism of Republicans.  I read an article the other day by a Conservative lamenting that young people use certain political positions as social status symbols, as self-identifiers that they are among the elite.  But certain ideas also have the opposite affect, acting as a big scarlet A that no one would willingly wear.  Among those are opposition to gay marriage, for example.  Many young folks, regardless of their position on anything else, would be as unlikely to vote for someone who opposed gay marriage as would be a Victorian society woman to openly admit she was a prostitute.  There are certain social positions that many Republicans hold that are complete non-starters to young people, such that they could not consider voting for such a politician even if they agreed with 99% of all the politician's other positions.  This tendency is reinforced by college professors, overwhelmingly of the Left, who tell kids that Republicans are not just people with whom they disagree, but bad people who have no place in civil society.

A year or so ago I got tapped to lead an all-too-brief center-right effort in Arizona to legalize gay marriage.  I cannot tell you how many Republican leaders and politicians came to me in private and thanked us for what we were doing, saying that the Republican party has to be saved from itself.  In the end, we eventually shut the effort down because prominent groups on the Left didn't want a center-right group to get any of the credit.  Some of them wanted the effort to go forward, but only if non-Leftists would bow out of the leadership group, and some said explicitly that they did not want the issue solved yet, because the Democrats wanted to flip Arizona blue in 2014 and 2016 and they needed the gay marriage issue to run on, knowing it was a way to pull otherwise libertarian leaning young people away from the Republicans.

Update:  I would add that opposition to gay marriage among Republicans also poisons young people to other Republican positions, such as smaller government and free markets (though this libertarian would argue that such Republican positions are often in name only, and not consistently followed, but that is another rant).   The biggest lie every person in this country is taught is that somehow Republicans and Democrats offer opposing and internally consistent positions on a political spectrum that only has two dimensions.  So if we don't know much about politics but KNOW Republicans have one really bad position, then the whole package must be bad and we should vote Democrat.  Which causes us to start self-justifying support for things like economic interventionism that we may not know much about but now is part of our team's position.


  1. stanbrown:

    The GOP is getting killed because they don't fight back against the constant slander and character assassination. The unrelenting message from Obama and his morally retarded minions is that the GOP is evil, hate-filled, racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. The failure to fight back against the slander allows the message to sink in.

  2. Addie B:

    An answer from someone who could still be considered a young person: My peers insist that the GOP is against "free healthcare," the GOP is the party of old white people and is against gays, blacks, and other minorities, the GOP is a friend of the corporations and not the common man, the GOP loves big oil and hates solar power, etc. They don't have any interest in tax and regulatory issues until they start earning a real living or start a business, at which point they are no longer young adults. I can't tell you how many friends of mine distanced themselves from the Democrats after starting to get their first "real" paychecks (not including typical young person jobs like waiting tables) or after they attempted to start their own businesses. By the way Jon Stewart does an incredible job of skewering the GOP every night, in case you're not paying attention.

  3. roystgnr:

    "In the end, we eventually shut the effort down because prominent groups
    on the Left didn't want a center-right group to get any of the credit." is of the form "A did X because B wanted Y", which omits a step. Usually in this form the implicit middle premise is "and A wanted B to be happy", but that seems very unlikely to apply in this case, and I honestly can't tell what belongs in its place. Why did a center-right group want to help prominent groups on the Left get what they want?

  4. S:

    As a "young voter", I decided (and still feel very strongly) that I wasn't going to vote into office anybody who thought that I should be forced to continue a pregnancy I didn't want, effectively enslaving me for 9 months and then risking my life and spending $10k+ on childbirth. Let's not even get into the extra crazy ones who think I should have to continue a pregnancy I wanted for another 3+ months after the doctors find out that the fetus can't possibly survive. That has generally settled the question of if I'm voting Republican or Democrat, and I know a lot of other young women who feel the same way.

    (For the record, at this point I'm in a situation in my life where I, personally, would not choose to have an abortion. However, I feel very strongly that women should have that choice.)

    I'd also say that in my lifetime, the Republicans and Democrats have both been horrible at fiscal responsibility or moving towards a smaller government with less regulation, so there isn't a strong case either way. I generally end up voting Democrat as the lesser of two evils, or third party if said third party actually has a reasonable plan for what they'll do if elected (some libertarians do, some don't).

  5. Jesse:

    Unfortunately on social issues, the debate is about whether one is "for" or "against" something, rather than the debate about whether the government should be involved in allowing or prohibiting it. I personally think homosexuality in general, not just marriage, is wrong, but then I don't wish to enjoin the government to stop anyone that wants to engage in it or get married or do whatever they want. (Of course this comes with the cavieat that any private organization or business can choose whether or not they want to hire, fire, provide benefits to, serve or otherwise associate with anyone based on their sexuality or any other reason, or not reason at all.)

    However I also sometimes perceive that despite the fact that my opinion is arguably more gay-friendly than even most pro-gay marriage positions, it's really just the fact that I disagree with it that is the problem, and if they could, they would pass a law to make my personal opinion of homosexuality illegal somehow.

    Unfortunately, younger voters seem to simply assume that whatever the question, it's the government that is going to decide the answer.

  6. mahtso:

    I tend to agree with this and I believe that this blog post exemplifies the point: the blogger writes that Republicans are against same sex marriage, but he also writes that Republicans were contacting him to show their support.

  7. mahtso:

    "I'd also say that in my lifetime, the Republicans and Democrats have both been horrible at fiscal responsibility or moving towards a smaller government with less regulation, so there isn't a strong case either way."
    From my perspective, the Democrats have always been moving to more regulation and larger government. So true as it is that the Republicans have been "horrible" they are still the better choice. And, as I've asked before, would you prefer that the Democrats control the senate when confirming judges, or the Republicans?

  8. Arrian:

    The center right group needed support from the Left groups because they have resources, contacts and experience with these types of campaigns. It's really hard to campaign for marriage equality when the majority of people in your state who support gay marriage are hearing "Don't support those people" from their political leadership.

    Without support, the initiative was doomed.

  9. mesocyclone:

    Yep, the young, whose mothers carried them for 9 months, are all too happy to murder the children that result from their sexual pleasure. Over 15,000,000 women have been murdered in the womb since Roe v. Wade.

    Sometimes, one has to stand up for principles, and defense of life is one. Murder is against the law for good reasons, and re-criminalizing that murder is responsible - at least after some age of gestation.

  10. zeeb:

    I used to watch John Stewart, years ago. Now, I can't bother. A couple nights ago they essentially said that the founding fathers created the current constitution because the articles of confederation were too weak to tax. They said the founding fathers created this iteration (their "later work where they sold out" in the joke's terms) of govt for taxation.

    Which completely ignored the difference between tax and tariff as evidenced by the 16th amendment and the very real verbiage in the constitution. And the fact that taxes kept coming up to finance wars, not state-level initiatives. But the whole audience loved it. I had to turn it off. John Stewart does a great job of skewering republicans, but all it takes is enough disillusionment to realize that's all bullshit. One good economics course does the same thing. There was one point where the show was advocating just going along with the health care bill until we find out what it does -- the idea that it's wrong to be against laws that are ambiguous. WTF?

    This is the sort of thing that made me start thinking that maybe the education apparatus we have really does create politically biased kids rather than the free-thinkers people pretend is their goal. It all creates validity behind ideas that previously I've thought were just paranoid conspiracies.

  11. Addie B:

    But aren't they right when the choice is between Reps and Dems? The Reps legislate "morality" and the Dems legislate "prosperity."

  12. Mondak:

    I would also say that one of the main reasons is that the Republicans aren't really for smaller government - they just pay it lip service and spend the money on different government expansions.

    Sure it is SUPPOSED to be what the party represents, but it certainly has not manifested that way when it comes to spending over the last 15 - 20 years. So now you have the following in a young mind:

    1. Vote for the Republicans who will continue to expand government while they pretend they are not.

    2. Vote for the Democrats who are at least not bigots.

    3. Vote Libertarian and "waste" the vote.

  13. Jody:

    I have a simple theory too - fewer white kids (proportionately) => fewer conservatives.

  14. S:

    I don't agree 100% with the actions of either set, but overall I've been happier with the decisions of the judges appointed by Democrats instead of Republicans. I don't actually vote along party lines most of the time; I prefer to look at the individual candidate's record on issues which matter to me, and go from there.

  15. jdt:

    I know I'd sure hate to be enslaved by a pregnancy. If only we could figure out a way to avoid them...

  16. MingoV:

    I remember a brief discussion I had with a freshman at the University of Michigan (sometimes known as Commie U.). He referred to most of his classmates as "sheep liberals" which I thought was a perfect description.

    A key thing to note about left-wingers is that they are all about lofty (to them) ideas. Outcomes don't matter at all. So, if you elect left-wingers and they screw up the government and the country, you don't pay attention to that. You pay attention to "we're for the little guy", "we're against racism", "we support _______ rights", "we favor good and free education", "we want to steal from the rich and put the money in your (and our) pockets."

    The combination of going along with the crowd and paying no attention to outcomes accounts for the huge percentage of young adults who vote democrat.

    An aside: Note that the left-wingers never say: "We believe government should leave you alone and respect your privacy", we believe businesses should make their own hiring and firing decisions", "we believe the corporate income tax should be eliminated because it is a tax on individual spending", etc.

  17. mesaeconoguy:

    While a fair oversimplification, the answer is brainwashing.

    I used to disbelieve this reason myself, but it has become painfully obvious to everyone willing to take even a moment’s introspection and look at what young people are taught (in government schools): government is necessary, benevolent, and helpful; the greatest leaders of the 20th century were TR, FDR, and Wilson, all of whom espoused “progressive” (actually regressive) activist government.

    These dumb kids actually believe that government is their friend. And, there are just enough clueless adults, who should know better, who agree with them.

    Unfortunately, we have now set ourselves on an irreversible course of government control, and leviathan nanny welfare statism, which we cannot afford. When we hit the wall in 5 – 10 years, maybe then these kids will start to “get it.”

  18. mesaeconoguy:

    Jon Leibowitz is part of the problem.

    While there is much to ridicule in the GOP platform and delivery, most of his snark is based on inaccurate information and gross oversimplification.

    His anti-capitalist bent is quite apparent, which is ironic given his brother Larry Leibowitz.

  19. fotini901:

    It's in their party platform. A constitutional amendment ensuring that gay people can't get married. How much more concrete can it get?

  20. mahtso:

    One can be against same sex marriage without being homophobic (or even anti homosexual). And, assuming you mean an amendment to prevent same sex marriage, the blogger's post shows that not every Republican agrees with the "official" party line (ditto for dems, libs, greens).

  21. David in Michigan:

    MingoV said: "........ paying no attention to outcomes accounts for the huge percentage of young adults who vote democrat." Absolutely true. Most of us who are older can remember our naivety as young adults.

    And from the article: "Many young folks, regardless of their position on anything else, would
    be as unlikely to vote for someone who opposed gay marriage as.........". Let me finish that for you. "..... as those who pay no attention to outcomes." One of the big outcomes (among others) is the raising of children within a gay marriage. But then when you're so into your own sex life, who cares if one of the outcomes is that children raised in such social constructs will grow up seriously confused and mentally warped (most especially the male children).

  22. HenryBowman419:

    I think you make some very good points. Many young people more-or-less equate gay marriage with the black civil rights movement. I think that such folks are simply horribly ignorant of what black people endured in the U.S. during the Jim Crow era -- there's really little comparison to the gay marriage issue -- but it doesn't really matter, that's how they view things. Republicans are mostly tightly wedded to social conservatism, and it hurts them very badly with younger voters. The best the Republicans can hope for on election day is that younger voters stay home.

    For the record, I am a very long-time Libertarian, and don't really care all that much about social issues. It's not that I don't have an opinion, but I simply think other issues matter more. I personally think that the issue that most degrades the U.S. is the now-common problem of theft: the banksters steal from the middle class via low interest rates coupled with higher inflation, and the politicians steal from the middle class via taxes (and the printing of money) solely to purchase votes. This is all theft, and roughly half of the U.S. is just fine with such theft, as long as it benefits them. As George Bernard Shaw reputedly said, "if you steal from Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul".

  23. HenryBowman419:

    The Republicans actually have no principles whatsoever, and it shows up as waffling on issues. The Democrats have principles, but most of their principles are abhorrent (support of serfdom, theft, racism,and, in the view of some [not me], murder).

  24. HenryBowman419:

    The University of Michigan is not the only "commie U" -- about 95% of U.S. colleges are such.

  25. HenryBowman419:

    Well, Jon Leibowitz is taking it to the bank, as well.

  26. mesaeconoguy:

    Which is his shtick, and that’s fine, as long as people understand that’s what it is.

    Jon Leibowitz is mistaken by millenials as ‘news.’

    That's a problem.

  27. mesaeconoguy:

    Jim Crow laws were southern Democrats.

  28. HenryBowman419:

    Yeah, you're right. Idiots like to watch idiots, and are easily misled. Keep in mind that such folks have no critical thinking skills. This is completely by design. See the interviews with Yuri Bezmenov.

  29. HenryBowman419:

    Correct. But consider that the Dem platform upholds racism [literally], higher taxation [aka serfdom], and theft. Dems and many other people are perfectly happy with this. Why? Something is seriously wrong, and I suspect the whores of the MSM are largely to blame.

  30. mesaeconoguy:

    And critical thinking skills are not only no longer taught in schools, they are actively shunned in corporate america.

    There, I said it.

  31. Seerak:

    Isn't that interesting!

    When the social/religious "issues" come up, the Left benefits. They don't have to distort anything; all they have to do is give the socons all the microphones they need to hang themselves.

    Compare and contrast with the gun rights issue. On that one, conservatives speak in terms of individual rights - and the Left can't stand it. They make shit up wholesale, and when they finally exhaust the supply, they are reduced to hissing "Shut up shut up shut up!"

    Gun rights are the least compromised, most pro-individual-rights issue for the Right - and it's their winningest issue by far, even today in the face of Obama and Newtown.

    The Left does not fear social conservatives. They do hissingly fear advocates of individual rights. I don't think the clue bat can hit you any harder, conservatives.

  32. Seerak:

    Yup. And how nice of Donald Sterling, Cliven Bundy, Todd Akin et al. to give them the examples they need to maintain that illusion.

    There's a reason why they fail to "fight back".

  33. vilmos:

    Let's separate the acceptance of gays from gay marriage. I happen to support the destigmatization of homosexuality. I also support that they should be able to live in civil union for tax purposes, inheritance, mutual benefit (like health insurance), etc. So they should have the same benefits/burdens as straight people. And no stigma.

    But I am very much against gay marriage. The institution of marriage has been with us for thousand (maybe tens of thousands?) of years, and while it is not perfect, it does a good job. It more or less ensures -- due to the approximately equal number of people in each sex -- that most people who want can find a spouse. Maybe not the dream one, but surely there is one out there. But if we start to fudge with marriage by allowing gay marriage, then can we really say no to polygamy in the next round? No, we can't. Heh,AFAIK, black civil right leaders don't like that gays piggybacked to their struggle, and gays don't like that people who have erotic feeling towards animals are ... piggybacking to their cause. And if we will eventually allow polygamy, and the men higher in the social ladder will have multiple wives, we will have a lot of low-end men who won't have the hope to have a woman in their lives. What will these people do? This is going to be a big problem in India and China. One of my coworkers lamented that we will be flooded with Chinese gay porn movies. And that is if everything goes well. I afraid that this can lead to very serious social destabilization later down the road.

  34. DanSmith:

    I believe you can add to the list of reasons the collusion, intentional or otherwise, of the MSM to cast Republicans in the worst light possible, thereby elevating any politician with the sacred (D) behind his name to a place where he can rarely be criticized.

  35. skhpcola:

    the Dems legislate "prosperity." "poverty."


  36. skhpcola:

    2. Vote for the Democrats who are at least not bigots.

    Are you trying to be funny or was that statement sincere? If it was sincere, you are either uninformed, apathetic, or propagandizing for the D-bags.

  37. Mondak:

    Let's face it. It is not like the "Defense of Marriage Act" and other disgusting things really came from the Democrats. In general though, we are talking about the PERCEPTION of the young mind and perhaps not always what lines up with reality. No need to jump to conclusions or drag the conversation into the mud right away.

  38. skhpcola:

    My apologies, Mondak. My scanning of the comments missed this highly pertinent bit in your initial comment:

    So now you have the following in a young mind:

    Spot on and I agree completely.

  39. John O.:

    One of the greatest lessons straight out of high school I learned was about how voting is perceived and then realizing that voting for anybody but those who I'm convinced would do better is a waste. I do not save my conscious from anguish when the "lesser evil" wins and acts with all the evil I wanted to avoid, because I thought he was the "lesser". I relish the fact that I voted against the sheep mentality and voted for the person who I can put more faith into despite knowing that person will lose.

  40. mahtso:

    I have never voted for someone who is evil. The lesser of two evils is, like most analogies, useful but flawed.

  41. NL7:

    That sounds like a lessening of stigma rather than destigmatization. You're saying that they would potentially spoil the institution, so they cannot be normalized by inclusion in it.

    I don't really follow the polygamy argument. Do you really expect large numbers of women to enter into polygamous relationships? I suspect polyamory might be more easily adopted, but at this point that seems less likely to be codified by most of the adoptees. The potential wives of polygamists have to consent, and to the extent they can find good monogamous husbands, they are generally less likely to pursue polygamous marriages. If monogamous wives become more scarce, the attractiveness of potential wives goes up until there's an equilibrium of sorts - not unlike the free market.

  42. NL7:

    Voting is expressive. Republicans are generally the party that claims the mainstream, the successful, the traditional, and the past. Democrats claim the marginalized, the forgotten, the progressive, and the future. This is expressive, so the details and reality don't matter. It's hard to get young people to identify with a lack of change, and even young rightists tend to frame their viewpoints as less conservative and more idealistic. Gay marriage opposition is emblematic of traditionalism.

  43. Mike Powers:

    It is always funny that people are taught that Teddy Roosevelt was a progressive. They are not taught about things like the Rough Riders and the Great White Fleet. If anything, TR was the George W. Bush of his day.

  44. Biilford:

    I agree. If I had to summarize my views in two sentences:

    1) Democrats want to pay too many people too much money to not work; also they want to regulate too much.

    2) Republicans want to pay people a little less for not working, a little more for being old, and they are more likely to go to war and insert themselves into the affairs of pregnant women and homosexuals.

    Forced to choose the best out of a bad lot, I have voted for a democrat exactly 75% of the time in national elections.

  45. Billford:

    Fair enough, but unless you're willing to sell all your possessions, and I mean up to and including your car, and take the bus to work for the rest of your life in order to pay for 30 years worth of food for 1,000 kids through Feed the Children of something like that, how seriously should one take your argument regarding the sanctity of life? Seems to me more taxes for more aid to save more lives would be the intermediate step before giving government the right to patrol in between its citizens' legs.

  46. mesocyclone:

    So, if someone isn't willing to pay for all of this, it's okay to *murder* the kids?

    What ever happened to personal responsibility? Why don't we put the burden on the people who caused the pregnancy? We have done everything possible in our society to create an unnatural sex without consequences. If someone gets pregnant in those circumstances, they can damned well sacrifice to raise the kids, as did the folks who birthed them!

  47. Keith_Indy:

    I seem to remember learning in history a quote about "The best government is that which governs least" and "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

    I still think we are going to see a dramatic slide in the next few years. If a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged by reality, then a libertarian may a conservative or liberty that's been f'ed over by the government. And we are getting more and more of those people every day.