For a long time, young Republicans have been usually thought of as conservative shock troops, more ideological than their elders. They were very important to Barry Goldwater’s insurgent presidential campaign in 1964. They were also prominent in Ronald Reagan’s political rise; he won the youth vote by 20 points in 1984. Even today, as their peers increasingly lean toward progressive political alignment, loudly ideological young people like Ben Shapiro, Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, and Milo Yiannopoulos are cult figures with large followings, and you might get the impression that all young Republicans are engaged full-time in culture-war theater on college campuses.
Perhaps they do represent a noisy faction of the next generation of right-wing politics. But the numbers indicate that the near-extinct phenomenon of moderate-to-liberal Republicanism is making a comeback in Generation Z (or “post-millennials,” usually defined as those born after the mid-1990s).
New data from YouGov suggests a notable decline in the percentage of under-30 Republicans identifying as conservative:
This confirms a Pew finding from 2017:
On views about race relations, Gen Z Republicans are more likely than older generations of Republicans to say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites. Among Republicans, 43% of Gen Zers say this, compared with 30% of Millennials and roughly 20% of Gen Xers, Boomers and Silents. Gen Z Republicans are also much more likely than their GOP counterparts in older generations to say increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S. is a good thing for society …
In addition, the youngest Republicans stand apart in their views on the role of government and the causes of climate change. Gen Z Republicans are much more likely than Republicans in older generations to say government should do more to solve problems. And they are less likely than their older counterparts to attribute the earth’s warming temperatures to natural patterns, as opposed to human activity.
These trends suggest that the long march of conservatives to conquer the Republican Party, one of the most successful and important political developments of the last half-century, could be finally be coming to an end. And if you add in the strongly pro-Democratic tilt of the millennial and post-millennial generations, it’s another indication that the future political viability of conservatism is likely to be reduced unless that creed finds a way to expand its appeal.