When Senate Democrats came to a caucus brunch in February, two charts were waiting for them at their seats.
They demonstrated young turnout in national elections, with two unmistakable peaks: 2018 and 2020, when massive turnout amongst 18-to-30-year-olds drove Democrats to control in Washington.
They Had It All Wrong
These graphs kicked off researcher John Della Volpe’s myth-busting tour through the Democrat Party’s top echelons on young folks and politics.
He told the senators that young people vote and they aren’t policy enthusiasts, snowflakes, or communists.
However, perhaps the most significant point Della Volpe can make to that group is young people are not chained to Democrats.
His attempt to enlist and empower the under-30 set comes at a very harmful time for the party. Democrats have previously faced difficult midterm elections with razor-thin margins in Congress.
However, the Democrat Party’s current incarnation has rarely, if it ever, been on such precarious footing with young people.
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In Gallup and other surveys early this year, support for President Biden among those aged 18 to 30 reached levels that no Democrat president had seen in decades: the mid-to-low-thirties.
In Gallup polls, Barack Obama’s approval rating among this demographic never fell below 42 percent.
The swing against Biden in 2021 ranged from 20 to 30 percentage points in some situations. He’s made advances in several surveys since then, but he’s still on shaky ground.
In 2022, Democrats face an imminent crisis from disenchanted youth voters, who backed Biden by a 25-point edge in 2020 and voted at all-time highs.
In their hour of need, important Democrats are turning to Della Volpe, a 54-year-old pollster with grey hair who isn’t on TikTok for answers.
It’s a Crisis
— Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) April 10, 2022
His “encyclopedic understanding of young people” has been praised by colleagues, team members, and political operators on both sides of the aisle, according to Republican researcher Kristen Soltis Anderson.
Della Volpe’s findings “give so much depth of insight” into a neglected population, according to John Anzalone, Biden’s primary campaign researcher.
Since its founding in 2000, Della Volpe has directed Harvard University’s Center of Politics Youth Poll, which includes previous students such as House GOP Caucus Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
Della Volpe’s extended analysis of young voters and what inspires them, how they feel about politicians, and if they’ll abandon politics completely — is crucial for Democrats, particularly as the election nears in 2022.
They’re also not as well-studied or comprehended as, say, Independent voters, despite the fact they make up a significant portion of the party’s base and whose numbers fluctuate.
In an interview, Della Volpe said the party is in an unusual position with young people heading into the midterms. “There are far more younger individuals in play than there were in the prior two cycles.”