Even Millennials Are Turning Republican, Data Show

Supporters take selfies with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
June 1, 2023

The "generation of young voters" that "propelled Barack Obama to a decisive victory" in 2008 is shifting Republican, according to findings that New York Times chief political analyst Nate Cohn reported Thursday.

While millennials overwhelmingly backed Obama, only half of those same voters—now in their 30s or early 40s—voted for Joe Biden in 2020, according to Times estimates. Exit polls show an even more drastic shift, with "Biden winning by just 51-45 among voters who were 18 to 27 in 2008," Cohn reported.

That same group of voters "preferred Democratic congressional candidates by just 10 points" in last year's midterms, according to Times/Siena College polling.

While Cohn wrote the findings may not seem "stunning," as "almost every cohort of voters under 50 has shifted toward the right" over the last decade, they cut sharply against a long-held Democratic article of faith. For at least 20 years, liberal academics and pundits have argued that a "coalition of the ascendant"—young voters, particularly blacks, Hispanics, and women—would enshrine Democrats as the eternal majority.

An influential 2002 book by Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, for example, argued for an "emerging Democratic majority," a prediction that many Democrats echoed after Obama's 2008 victory.

That prediction has not come to pass. Teixeira now says that "the Democrats and the Democratic brand are in deep trouble," as he argued in an essay last year for National Review. In addition to Cohn's findings, exit polls show Latino and black voters slowly but significantly shifting rightward.

Some of the issues that drew in millennials in 2008, such as "the Iraq war or same-sex marriage," are no longer issues at all, Cohn wrote. Meanwhile, Republicans have likely won voters by "colorblind messaging on race" and "becoming the 'anti-establishment' party."

Update 11:43 p.m.: This piece has been updated for clarity since original publication.