This piece is published with the generous permission of John Della Volpe. To read more of his outstanding writing and analysis, visit JDVonGenZ+.
By John Della-Volpe
Before the first Republican debate, I wrote this piece about the staggering generational divides that could destabilize the MAGA Republican party in the near future. In it, I highlighted that younger Republicans exhibit lesser party allegiance, more moderate views, and divergent policy concerns. When I shared the article on social media, I paired it with polar bear imagery, an animal who resorts to eating their young under extreme conditions.
As I outline below, younger and older Democrats show more vital unity in their beliefs and commitment to their cause than their GOP counterparts.
Therefore, this week’s image is a pair of orca whales— creatures known for their cohesive, intergenerational groups that collaboratively safeguard their most vulnerable.
While younger Republicans were more likely than their elders to cast themselves as moderates and not conservatives — the opposite is true for Democrats. Younger Gen Z and millennial Democrats are about twice as likely as older ones to call themselves progressive.
However, these perceived ideological differences do not translate to (dis)association with the party. Unlike the GOP (see second chart below), most younger and older Democrats identify as “strong” party members; the remaining ones are “not (a) very strong.”
When we asked Democrats to indicate their views on the importance of two dozen policy priorities, we found alignment* between younger and older Democrats 58% of the time (14 of 24 issues). This finding starkly contrasts our Republican sample, which only finds alignment 21% of the time (5 of 24 issues).
Reducing gun violence and mass shootings proved to be the most critical issue for both younger and older Democratic voters: 83% of Gen Z and millennials and 91% of Gen X, boomer, and Silent gen Democrats report that this is a “very important” issue when thinking about the kind of America in which they want to live.
Across the 24-question battery, the average distance between what younger and older Democrats believe was a “very important” issue was less than ten percentage points. Among the Republican sample, the average difference was 15 percentage points.
Gen Z and millennials were much more likely than their older counterparts to prioritize:
On the other hand, older Democrats were more likely than Zoomers and millennials to prioritize:
The chart below ranks each issue, highlighting points of agreement and disparity between generations (younger and older than 41).
There are six issues Gen Z and millennial Republicans have more in common with their younger Democratic counterparts than they do with the generations of their parents and grandparents.
And while less critical overall, there’s more generational than political party alignment on:
* The percentage of Gen Z and millennial voters believing something is very important is within ten points of Gen X and Boomers+ saying the same
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As expected, younger and older Democrats turn to vastly different media platforms for their news. Younger Democrats gravitate towards YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok, with a preference margin of over 30 points. Conversely, older Democrats lean more towards local news, network news, and MSNBC, with a preference margin of at least 25 points.
Mostly, the variations in where Gen Z and millennial Democrats and Republicans source their news are relatively slight. For better or worse, TikTok is the most common source regardless of political affiliation.
As illustrated in the chart below, younger-gen Democrats are more likely than their conservative young counterparts to regularly visit YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, CNN, and NPR. At the same time, younger Republicans outpace Democrats in their preference for Facebook, Fox News, Barstool, and the Daily Wire.
For my taste, much of today’s public polling is overly focused on immediate, narrative-supporting statistics that often miss the deeper values influencing public opinion and electoral outcomes. This approach diminishes the value of survey research and significantly contributes to the declining trust in polling and the media.
I have found that identifying the issues that voters are passionate about — and watching the campaign through this lens — is a more constructive method for understanding political campaigns today and where we are heading as a country.
I believe the Republican party faces impending generational turbulence, with younger members distancing themselves from the more extreme MAGA party stances. In contrast, Democrats, spanning various age groups, present a unified front on most major policy issues, exemplifying strength in their collective vision.
The key to the 2024 election may well come down to whether: