Utah Republicans may have a brewing problem with younger voters

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As the Utah Republican Party looks to rebuild itself from the electoral and financial challenges of the last two years, there is one group of Utahns who are clearly turning away from the archconservative-leaning party – younger voters.

Utah is not alone in this issue. Younger voters and women are especially distrustful of GOP President Donald Trump across the nation.

Those 25-34 year-olds in Utah give Trump just a 33 percent approval rating – really poor.

Utah remains a very red state, but more and more it’s surrounded by purple, or even blue, voting patterns.

The numbers are reflected in UtahPolicy.com’s polling by Dan Jones & Associates.

Take a look at these numbers:

There are 651,000 registered Republicans in Utah, 467,700 political independents (not registered in any political party), and only 161,000 registered Democrats.

So Republican candidates have a huge advantage here just out of the campaign gate.

But that advantage is dropping among younger Utahns, who are much more inclined than older generations to not belong to a political party, especially the Republican Party.

The demographics in the latest DJA survey show:

31 percent of Utahns ages 18-24 said they are Republicans.

35 percent of those who are 25-34 years old said they are Republicans.

And 37 percent of those who are 35-44 years old said they are Republicans.

You see the slight trend there.

But 56 percent of those who said they are 45-54 years old said they are Republicans.

52 percent of the 55-64-year-olds are members of the GOP.

And 57 percent of seniors, age 65 and older told DJA they are Republicans.

Look at the numbers for political independents – who say they don’t identify with any political party:

40 percent of the 18-24-year-olds say they are independent in their political thinking.

That number stays constant through the next to age groups, DJA finds.

But only 29 percent of the 45-54-year-olds say they are independents.

20 percent for the 55-64-year-olds.

And 22 percent for the seniors.

The Democrats don’t pick up a lot of voters as you move from younger to older Utahns, the numbers show.

It is the area of political independents that is growing the most among younger voters, by far.

Here is another interesting statistic:

The percent of “very active” members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints changes among the younger and older Utahns – a fact that church leaders themselves have acknowledged, and the reason, some believe, that church leaders have become a bit more accommodating of younger singles and families in recent church-related decisions.

37 percent of 18-24-year-olds tell DJA they are “very active” in the LDS faith.

That climbs to 49 percent among 25-34-year-olds; 52 percent for 35-44 age group; 55 percent in 45-54 and so on up to the seniors who top out at 65 percent active LDS.

It is clear that younger Utah voters are willing to at least consider a Democratic or independent candidate.

And that among the younger set, having a “R” beside your name on the ballot is not, in some areas of the state, an automatic ticket to victory.

Former GOP Utah House member Derek Brown, who is running for state Republican chairman in the May 4 Republican convention, talks with UtahPolicy Managing Editor Bryan Schott about this phenominum in the latest UtahPolicy.com podcast, found here.

In fact, it may well have been women and younger voters who put Democrat Ben McAdams over the top of Republican incumbent Rep. Mia Love in the 2018 4th U.S. House District race last fall – a blue wave seen among younger voters across the nation.

It has been the case in previous generations, that as Utahns age they become more conservative.

As Winston Churchill said: A young person who is not a liberal has no heart, an older person who is not a conservative has no brain.

Well, perhaps.

But leaders of the Utah Republican Party, and their candidates, may want to start taking a look at younger voters in this state, and not take them for granted.