Young Southerners leaned Democratic — until they hit their 30s

The conventional wisdom in the U.S.  is the younger the voter the more likely they are to cast a ballot for Democrats. If you’re older, you’re more likely to lean Republican. But in the South, the voting trends are not as easily divided by age.

Here, we take a look at why U.S. residents are more likely to vote Democrat if they were born after 1980, and why that’s not necessarily true in the South.

While there are a great many reasons for political alignments, the political generation gap is often traced back to economics. 

First you have to understand the breakdown of wealth in the U.S. 

Older generations, 40 and up, hold an enormous majority of the country’s household wealth, according to federal data. When you combine the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, or everyone born before 1980, you find these three age groups hold 96% of all household wealth in the U.S. 

Millennials, those born between 1981 and 1996, hold the other 4%.

And Gen Z adults, those born in the mid to late 90s, have so little household wealth that the federal government does not list them.

How does more wealth translate to Republican votes? For the 96 percenters, voting Republican allows them in most cases to retain the bulk of that wealth through lower taxes. 

The youngsters, on the other hand, typically favor policies that can often cost more taxes, and those policies tend to align with Democrats and the Left.

While paying more taxes doesn’t directly put a greater share of that wealth into younger, bluer hands, it can and does in many cases benefit them by the stability offered through welfare programs and better opportunity within education, for example.  

Looking at age demographics is an important factor in understanding those generational gaps and differences on a wide variety of issues, especially economics and opportunity.  

But what’s different in the South? 

Here’s the thing, it’s not so straight forward in the Southeast. Exit and Associated Press polling data from this year’s election shows things are a little different down here compared with the rest of the country.

Looking at the entire country, multiple polls of nearly 16,000 voters indicated that people between age 18 and 44 voted overwhelmingly for Democrats. Broken down further, 62% of voters aged between 18 and 29 voted Democrat, compared with 35% for Republicans. That gap narrows in the 30-44 age group, where 52% of voters went blue compared with 45% opting for the red.

Exit and AP polling for each individual southeastern state show that those aged between 18 and 29 also voted for the Democrats in six of the nine states. Data for that age group in Arkansas was not available.

They voted 43% Republican, compared with 53% voting Democrat, which is a lot closer than the national trend.

Tennessee and South Carolina were the exceptions, where 48% and 50% of the youngest age group voted Republican, respectively. 

Of particular note were 18-29 year-old voters in Florida and Alabama, where 60% and 58% voted Democrat. 

However, the southeastern states start to buck the national voting trend in the 30-44 year-old age group.

In six of the nine southeastern states they voted Republican. Georgia and North Carolina were the exceptions. In South Carolina, it was a tie.

Overall, around 50% percent of 30-44 year-olds voted Republican in the southeast, compared with 46% voting Democrat, bucking the national trend where 52% voted Democrat and 45% going Republican.

The two highest Republican voting states in that age group were Tennessee and Louisiana with 55% and 57%, respectively.  

The Reckon Report.
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