Is Trump destroying the GOP? This new poll will terrify Republicans.
By Greg Sargent, August 15, 2016
Not long after Donald Trump delivered his acceptance speech at the festival of rage, hate, and megalomania otherwise known as the GOP convention, leading Never Trump conservatives despaired that the GOP’s nomination of Trump could cost the party a generation of young voters. As former Jeb Bush adviser Tim Miller pointed out, the two conventions did not give the average 18-year-old any reason to be a Republican. Miller added: “We’re giving away a generation.”
A new USA Today/Rock the Vote poll released today will not do much to assuage those fears.
The new poll’s toplines are alarming enough for Republicans: They show that Hillary Clinton is beating Trump by 56-20 among voters under 35. By contrast, according to exit polls, John McCain won 32 percent of voters aged 18-30 in 2008 and Mitt Romney won 36 percent of them in 2012, though this is an imperfect comparison of age groups.
Here’s what this all means, per the USA Today article accompanying the poll:
The findings have implications for politics long past the November election. If the trend continues, the Democratic Party will have scored double-digit victories among younger voters in three consecutive elections, the first time that has happened since such data became readily available in 1952. That could shape the political affiliations of the largest generation in American history for years to follow.And here is what the new poll finds in terms of which party young voters are now identifying with:
In the new survey, half of those under 35 say they identify with or lean toward the Democrats; just 20% identify with or lean toward the Republicans. Seventeen percent are independents, and another 12% either identify with another party or don’t know.One in five young voters identifies with the GOP. Now, it should be pointed out that if this 20 percent number is accurate, it may be somewhat misleading to blame it on Trump alone. The Republican Party’s failure to evolve on gay rights, immigration, and other issues was already alienating young people, as even the RNC’s own autopsy into what went wrong in 2012 conceded.
But it seems reasonable to speculate that Trump may be exacerbating that problem. Democrats have tailored their messaging specifically towards young voters by emphasizing his chauvinism, his vow of mass deportations, and his own particularly buffoonish brand of climate denialism (he has called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese). Trump’s words and positions may be further alienating young voters to an untold degree.
Indeed, it’s worth noting that there is broad agreement among Never Trump conservatives and Democrats, not just that Trump could be exacerbating an already-existing GOP problem with young voters, but also that it could have untold ramifications for the future. As I’ve reported, Democrats believe Trump may have presented a unique opportunity to deepen the contrast — in the minds of a whole generation of coming-of-age voters — between a GOP branded by Trump’s Fortress America lack of curiosity about the world, his fondness for vicious abusiveness, his relentless appeal to voters’ basest instincts, and his white ethno-nationalism, and a Democratic Party that is embracing culturally and demographically evolving America.
Now, it is always possible that, if Trump loses, the GOP could quickly rebound in 2018 and 2020, without sustaining long term damage from the depredations of Trumpism. But, given what the GOP nominee has proven himself capable of in recent days and weeks, it is striking to contemplate the specific warning that the post-2012 RNC autopsy delivered. “We do need to make sure young people do not see the Party as totally intolerant of alternative points of view,” it said, adding that young voters “will continue to tune us out” and that the GOP’s appeal risks “shrinking to its core constituencies only,” if the party does not become more “welcoming and inclusive.”
And that was before Donald Trump took over the party.