September 20 2010
The Youngest Independents
As my colleague Carrie Lukas just blogged about, Independent Women's Voice (IWV) released a poll today of independent voters. Of particular interest to me were the responses to questions about voting by age group and the questions about the "mood of the country." Not surprisingly, voters who are pessimistic about the state of affairs in Washington plan to vote against the party in power (by casting their votes to the other party, the Republicans), while those who are optimistic will vote for the Democrats.
But one trend that I did find surprising was in the division of voters into age groups. Of the poll respondents in my age group, the 18-29 year-old voters, 25 percent of them said they planned to vote for Democrats in the upcoming Congressional election, 36 percent of them said they planned to vote for Republicans, and 40 percent said they were unsure. These numbers lean more to the right than those in the age group ahead of us in life (the 30-39 year olds), who break even for Democrats and Republicans at 29 percent while 41 percent remain unsure.
What is it about independent voters in my age group that makes voting for Republicans more attractive? I think the age-division question has a lot to do with the optimism question. For many people aged 20-24, the 2008 presidential election was the first one they were eligible for (because two years ago, these voters were aged 18-22). As a group, it's fair to say that independent voters liked Obama as a candidate, and it's also fair to say the youngest voters supported him by a strong majority. But this was before we had to find jobs, before we had to buy our own groceries, and for many of us, before we started filing our own income taxes.
I visited my college town of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, this weekend, and was saddened to hear about the number of my friends who (with college degrees) have sent out their resumes over and over again, but now work as unpaid interns, babysitters, or other jobs that require virtually no higher education. Talk about a cause for pessimism! For some people, the years between 18 and 29 mean more than a first job. For some, this time also means marriage, a first house, or even a first baby. Making these weighty life decisions in the midst of a bad economy is enough to disappoint anyone with the current decisions coming out of Washington.
So that's my reasoning behind the IWV poll's revelation of an 11-point advantage for the Republican Party among the youngest group of voters. The "mood of the country" in this group is probably very low. This group wanted change in 2008 - It appears they will want change again in 2010, just change in the other direction.