Survey research: GOP has challenge to attract younger voters

In this spring’s county and state Republican Party conventions, leaders stressed time and again that the party needs to attract more younger voters, and keep them as they grow older.

Now a new Analytics poll shows why party leaders are worried about the future: Younger Utahns are less partisan and less Republican than their elders.


For example, among those 18-34 years old, 25 percent said they consider themselves Republicans.

But among those 65 or older, 45 percent said they are Republicans.

Those who consider themselves Democrats stay relatively stable through the age brackets, Y2 found.

Among those 18-34 years old, 23 percent said they are Democrats, while those over 65 years, 19 percent said they are Democrats.

The big shift for younger Utahns is towards being “independents” and “no preference” politically, Y2 found.

Another way to measure the trend is to break out by age those who told Y2 that they are “strong Republicans.”

Of that group, only 15 percent are 18-34 years old, while 31 percent are 65 years old or older.

And that means younger Utahns would be more open to candidates who don’t pound the partisan political drum, are more open-minded in their politics.

So candidates who play the partisan card in their campaigning may not be so attractive to younger voters today.

And, down the road, Utah could become a less Republican state.

Now, Utah is very red today. And it is not moving much toward becoming a purple state, or a more bipartisan state, like Nevada and Colorado, our two neighbors who have been electing Democrats to Congress and in state elections.

The Utah Legislature is more than two-thirds Republican, all statewide offices are held by Republicans, and out of six members of Congress only one is a Democrat, Rep. Ben McAdams in the 4th Congressional District.

But Republicans did lose the 4th District last year, as well as most of the Salt Lake County races. They lost one state Senate seat and three Utah House seats.

In general, one can say when you are young you may be more liberal, or progressive. And as you age, you get more conservative.

Winston Churchill said: “If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain.”

Y2 finds:

–18-34 years old, 25 percent Republican.

–35-44 years old, 29 percent Republican.

–45-54, 46 percent Republican.

–55-64, 40 percent Republican.

–65 and older, 45 percent Republican.

As noted above, Utah Democrats stay about the same percentage as you move through age groups, 23 percent at 18-34 and 19 percent at above 65.

But those who said they are “independents” are higher among the young, 30 percent at 18-34 and 26 at 65 or older.

And those who said they have “no preference” politically, 12 percent at 18-34 and only 5 percent over 65.

Those who said they belong to some party other than the major two, 8 percent at 18-34 and only 4 percent at 65 or older.

Now, dislike among the young for GOP President Donald Trump could be a factor here, for if you really dislike the nominal leader of a political party you may not want to associate with it.

Y2 finds that among Utahns 18-34 years old, 67 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” disapprove of the president, 5 percent said they neither approve nor disapprove, and 27 percent approve of him.

But among those 65 and older, only 47 percent disapprove of Trump (a 20 percentage-point difference), 3 percent neither approve nor disapprove, and 50 percent actually approve of the job Trump is doing – a very big difference among the age groups.

Overall, the poll’s findings show that a moderate Democratic candidate has a chance with younger Utah voters in many races.

Younger voters tend not to vote, however, while older Utahns certainly do vote.

So the challenge for Democrats is to turn out those younger voters, and hope they will consider casting a ballot for someone not with an “R” by their name.