Despite leaning Democratic overall, only a quarter of young Americans will vote next week, and those who will are disproportionately Republican and show a desire for Congressional change.
Once the demographic that powered President Obama's 2008 win, 18- to 29-year-old voters now appear to be mobilizing in favor of Republicans, according to a recent poll conducted by the Harvard Public Opinion Project, which has tracked political views of young people since 2000.
Forty-three percent of young Americans who say they are "definitely voting" identify as Republicans. Yet among all young people polled, regardless of whether or not they plan to vote, far fewer identified with the party -- 29 percent of all young people considered themselves Republicans.
Despite last-minute attempts to rally the youngest voting bloc, Democrats have not seen the same swell in support from young voters as have Republicans. Forty-six percent of young likely voters identify as Democrats, and an almost equivalent 43 percent of all young people consider themselves Democrats.
This clear Republican-Democrat divide among young voters mirrors a similar split in 2010 midterm election cycle in which Republicans mobilized young Americans and Democrats saw one of their worst election outcomes. In fall 2010, thirty-eight percent of likely voters identified as Republican, while 33 percent affiliated with Democrats, according to the Harvard poll.
The Tea Party in particular has a distinct advantage among young voters--while only 9 percent of all young Americans favor the Tea Party, 19 percent of likely young voters showed support, according to the poll.
Republicans also have maintained a consistent advantage over Democrats in registering young people to vote. The recent data shows that 80 percent of young Republicans are registered to vote compared to 72 percent of young Democrats. This advantage also held in 2012, when Republicans were nine points more likely to be registered than Democrats and in 2010 when Republicans were four points more likely.
Slightly more young voters hope Republicans, which have overwhelmingly outspent Democrats on campaign efforts, wrest the Senate majority from Democrats in the final days of the tight race for control of Congress. Fifty-one percent of likely voters prefer Republicans to take over Congress, while 47 percent prefer Democrats. Again, this Republican tilt among likely voters is highly disproportional when compared to all young Americans. Significantly more young Americans prefer a Democrat-controlled Congress--43 percent prefer Republicans to control Congress and 50 percent prefer Democrats.
This divide couples data that reveals nearly half of young voters are dissatisfied with their current members of Congress. Forty-eight percent of likely voters would recall and replace their member of Congress -- 47 percent are Democrats and 44 percent are Republican.
Further, many young voters are disillusioned by their current member of Congress. Only 13 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters saying their member of Congress most represents his or her constituents. Young Americans think their representatives have ulterior motives -- 32 percent say their Congressmen most represent campaign donors, 29 percent themselves and 25 percent their party.
Though young Americans as a whole show majority support for Democrats, only those that show up to the polls count, and Republicans appear to have energized and mobilized young voters -- a key move that could tip the scales in their favor on election day.