With only six months to go before the midterm elections, a meta-narrative is emerging that the electoral landscape favors the GOP. Journalists, political strategists and talking heads across the political spectrum are regurgitating the pollster line that a majority of potential voters — especially the ever elusive “independent” — are leaning Republican in 2014. And polling data suggest that 18- to 29-year-olds aren’t interested in voting at all.
A recent Harvard University Institute of Politics survey found that less than 1 in 4 young Americans say they will “definitely be voting” this November.
Black and Latino millennials are said to be so disillusioned that they see no need to vote. They report that they’re even less likely — at a rate of 19 percent, compared with 27 percent of their white counterparts — to cast a ballot. By contrast, Republicans of every age are more enthusiastic about voting, with 44 percent saying they will definitely vote — compared with 35 percent of Democrats.
And conservative outlets appear to be celebrating: Townhall magazine declared, “Millennials Leaving Democratic Party,” and Fox News’ website read, “Many Millennials May Sit Out Midterm Elections.”
In general, these predictions follow historic trends in which Democratic constituencies are more likely to vote during presidential elections, while constituencies that lean Republican are more reliable in off-year elections. But recent changes in voting patterns among young and minority voters leave the continuation of those trends in doubt.
In 2008 and 2012, young African-Americans voted in larger percentages than their white counterparts, Census figures show. And the percentage of black voters of all ages exceeded that of whites. So has any pollster bothered to ask why young black millennials are unenthusiastic about this election?
Perhaps it’s because despite historic social progress, when it comes to economics, African-American millennials are about as likely to trail behind their white counterparts as their forebears were during the Jim Crow era, a 2013 Urban Institute report concludes. According to research by the Economic Policy Institute, the minority unemployment rate — particularly that of young black high school and college graduates — is higher than that of whites, in good times and bad.