Young progressive voters in New Jersey shun corrupt Democratic establishment

Young New Jerseyans are likely to hold progressive views on issues like climate change and universal healthcare, but they are not appreciably more likely to be Democratic than older voters in the state.

According to the latest results from the Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) Poll, those progressive views seem to be tempered by a general distrust of the political parties, and even of democracy as an institution.

The poll also showed that non-white voters in New Jersey are not monolithically Democrats, potentially creating opportunities for Republicans going forward.

The online survey of 1,678 young adults ages 18 to 30 was designed to look at the views of young people in New Jersey, with separate samples of young men nationwide, and a smaller sample of young women nationwide included for comparison purposes.

“It’s not as simple as young voters being more Democratic,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at FDU, and the Executive Director of the Poll. “We’re seeing that the past few years of American life have shaped their political and social views into something entirely new and different.”

Overall, young people in New Jersey are not significantly more Democratic than voters overall in the state. In FDU’s 2022 pre-election poll, 50 percent of New Jersey voters identified as Democrats (or leaning towards the Democratic party), compared with 52 percent of residents ages 18 to 30.

They are, however, less likely to identify as Republicans: 25 percent of young residents do so, compared with 33 percent of 2022 voters.

Just as with other Garden Staters, young women are much more likely to be Democrats than young men (61 percent versus 46 percent), and less likely to be Republicans (20 percent versus 29 percent).

Put another way, young men in New Jersey are 17 points more likely to be Democrats than Republicans; while young women are 41 points more likely.

Former President Donald Trump is particularly unpopular among young New Jerseyans: just 19 percent say that they voted for him in 2020, compared 48 percent who say that they voted for Biden.

Even 22 percent of young Republicans in the state say that they supported Biden over Trump in that election.

There are some warning signs for Democrats, though. They have only a narrow edge among whites ages 18 to 30 (43 percent Democratic, 37 percent Republican), and their support among other racial and ethnic groups is far from monolithic.

Sixty-three percent of African-American young people identify as Democrats, but that figure is just 56 percent among Asian-Americans and 53 percent among Hispanics.

“We’ve seen challenges for Democrats nationwide among non-white groups,” said Cassino. “Democrats cannot afford to take non-white voters, especially non-white men, for granted in elections.”

Young New Jersey residents are also not much different from other residents on abortion. Forty-nine percent of 18-30 year-old residents say that they think abortion should “be legal under any circumstance,” compared with 51 percent among 2022 voters in the state.

Not surprisingly, there is a substantial gap based on party, with 64 percent of young Democrats saying that it should always be legal, compared to 34 percent of Republicans. Independents, who say that they don’t lean towards either party, are much closer to the Republican stance, with 37 percent supporting abortion under any circumstance.

Still, abortion bans – making it illegal in all circumstances – are very unpopular, with only 3 percent of Democrats, 5 percent of independents and 15 percent of Republicans holding such a view.

“Young people in New Jersey are rejecting abortion bans,” said Cassino. “For Republicans, the challenge is distancing themselves from extreme views in their own party if that want to have a chance with under 30s.”

In the survey, young residents also expressed a degree of skepticism about the way government works. Seventy-eight percent agree that “the current political parties are too corrupt and ineffective to actually get anything done,” with 42 percent “strongly” agreeing.

This view goes across party lines: the figure is 78 percent among Democrats, and 76 percent among Republicans.

This extends even to their view of democracy as an institution: 56 percent agree that “democracy is still the best way to run a government,” though Republicans are less likely to embrace that message than Democrats. Only 58 percent of Republicans agree, compared with 75 percent of Democrats. Independents are the most skeptical: only 36 percent agree.

“The fact that support for democracy, as a concept is this low should be a wakeup call for everyone,” said Cassino. “Young people don’t feel like they’ve seen democracy work, and that’s led to the very basis of our system become politicized.”

This uncertainty about the value of existing institutions goes beyond politics, and into economics as well. Forty-nine percent of residents under 30 disagree with the statement “capitalism makes sure that everyone gets exactly what they deserve in life.” That figure is 53 percent among Democrats, and 37 percent among Republicans.

Not all of the views are quite so heavily politicized. A majority of young New Jerseyans, Democrats and Republicans alike, agree that climate change represents an existential threat to society. That figure is 84 percent among Democrats, and while it’s lower among Republicans, it’s still 60 percent. Similarly, eighty-eight percent of Democrats, and 75 percent of Republicans 30 and under agree that the government should make sure that everyone has free access to basic healthcare.

“On issues like climate change and healthcare, young people seem to be well to the left of older voters,” said Cassino. “Among young people, these don’t even look like political issues: they’re just truths universally acknowledged.”

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