Terrance Woodbury, a Millennial Democratic consultant, recently told me that the attitudes expressed by younger generations on most policy issues mean Democrats should aspire to win three-fourths of their vote. One reason for that ambitious goal: Gen Z, like a youthful cavalry, will start entering the electorate in large numbers this year, and will reinforce the change that Millennials began. These young Americans, born from 1997 to 2012, are even more racially diverse than Millennials. Forty-nine percent of Gen Z are people of color, versus 45 percent of Millennials, according to a recent analysis of census data by the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, another principal in the States of Change project. By contrast, more than 70 percent of Baby Boomers are white. (The younger, still-unnamed generation of Americans born beginning in 2013 is even more racially diverse—51 percent of them are nonwhite—but they won’t begin entering the electorate until 2031.)
States of Change anticipates that Millennials will actually plateau at about one-fourth of both eligible and actual voters between now and 2036. The biggest change to the electorate will be the explosive growth of Gen Z, which will increase from a projected 8 percent of actual voters this year to 29 percent in 2036. That year, the two generations combined will comprise a clear 55 percent majority of all voters. As soon as 2028, States of Change expects them to outvote the Boomers and even older generations by a double-digit margin.
Strikingly, this transition will be as powerful in the older, mostly white states of the Rust Belt as it will be in the younger, more diverse, and rapidly growing Sun Belt states. According to the previously unpublished States of Change projections, by 2028, the giant younger generations will comprise at least 40 percent of actual voters not only in Colorado, Georgia, Texas, and Arizona, but also in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio, and Iowa.
That’s a worrisome trend for Republicans. In another study by Pew, analysts concluded that “similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.” All of that clangs against the agenda Trump has stamped on the GOP, of open resistance to racial and cultural change.
But while this generational transition presents obvious opportunities for Democrats, it also creates complications. Because Democrats are winning most young people, the disruption will rumble through their party first: States of Change projects that Millennials and Gen Z will provide nearly half of all Democratic votes by as soon as 2028.
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