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Posts Tagged ‘Millenials’

Virginia & New Jersey: Democratic Warning Flags & Republican Opportunities

November 6th, 2013


The narrative of 2013 thus far has been the victory of pragmatism over dogmatic adherence to ideology, moderation and bipartisan compromise over extreme partisanship. Those on the Left may be tempted to view their victory in Virginia as a demographic inevitability, running up numbers with voters who are all but guaranteed to be Democrats for life. But buried within the polling are warning signs for Democrats and opportunities for Republicans.

Governor-elect Terry McAuliffe won the 18-29 year-old vote by a bare margin of 45% to 40%. A surprising 15% voted for Robert Sarvis, which marked the highest level of support the libertarian candidate received from any age group. By contrast, President Obama won 60% of younger voters in 2008 and 2012 in Virginia. But last night’s election proves that President Obama’s large margins of victory among younger voters cannot be assumed to simply transfer to other Democratic candidates. McAuliffe may have secured a plurality of the youth vote, but he was down 15 points from President Obama’s margin.

Indeed, buried in the exit polls, Ken Cuccinelli actually won more voters ages 18-24 than McAuliffe, by 45% to 39%.* [McAuliffe did better among 25-29 year olds, winning them 50% to Cuccinelli's 35%.] Younger Millennials, those who likely have scant memories of a pre-September 11 America and entered adulthood during a recession, appear more open to Republican and libertarian candidates than their slight elders. While Republicans’–and Cuccinelli’s, in particular–views on gay equality are generally highlighted as a symbol of youth alienation from socially conservative Republican candidates, he still garnered 45% support from the youngest voters last night. That means Democrats cannot simply assume that a few social issues will necessarily drive the youth vote from the GOP and into their ranks by overwhelming margins.

In election eve polling among Hispanics and Asians, McAuliffe won 66% of the Hispanic vote and 63% of the Asian vote. However, the polls demonstrate that those voters are not die-hard partisans–58% of Hispanics and 68% of Asians have voted Republican in the past, and only 47% of Hispanics and 36% of Asians call themselves Democrats. Immigration emerges as a key issue for these groups. McAuliffe’s support for a Virginia DREAM Act, coupled with Cuccinelli’s opposition to comprehensive immigration reform and harsh language towards immigrants, not only propelled these communities to support the Democrat but also spilled over to tarnish the Republican Party brand–70% or more of Hispanics and about 60% of Asians reported that Cuccinelli’s statements about immigrants made them less favorable to the Republican Party.

But all of that could be remedied. Views of the GOP would improve markedly if the House held a vote and passed comprehensive immigration reform. Nearly 70% of Hispanics and 47% of Asians would view Republicans in Congress less favorably if there is no vote while about 40% of each group would view Republicans in Congress more favorably if a vote was scheduled. Republicans have a genuine opportunity here. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie out-right won the Hispanic vote. In Virginia and elsewhere, winning over just a few Hispanic or Asian voters could have propelled Republicans to victory.

Recently, we noted that despite President Obama’s impressive wins in 2008 and 2012, Millennial, Hispanic, and Asian voters were neither reliable partisans nor liberal ideologues. If anything, both gubernatorial races in 2013 confirmed that perspective.

*The sample size for the 18-29 year old vote in the exit polls is about 308, which would result in a margin-of-error around +/-5.5.