Millennial voters are poised to drive the U.S. debate on climate change—and they could have an oversized impact on 10 competitive congressional elections this year, two new studies suggest.
The first study, released late last week by the Pew Research Center, showed that millennials are considerably more liberal than their elders on a variety of issues, including climate change, and that they're much more inclined to support Democratic candidates for Congress.
The second study, also released late last week by the Center for Information && Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, showed the 10 congressional districts where millennial voters could potentially make the greatest difference in November. Eight of the 10 districts are in the Midwest or Plains states.
It has long been accepted wisdom among scholars and political strategists that millennial voters—defined as those born between 1981 and 1996—are more liberal than older voters. But the Pew report shows the disparity on a variety of issues and on general partisan leanings.
And with millennials now representing 28 percent of the U.S. adult population, according to Pew, these young people are poised to have an outsized impact on political races—this year and subsequently.
"Generational differences have long been a factor in U.S. politics," the study reads. "These divisions are now as wide as they have been in decades, with the potential to shape politics well into the future."
On climate change, about three-quarters of the public believes there is "solid evidence" that the Earth has been warming, and 53 percent believe it is attributable to human activity, according to the study. But that belief is most commonly held among millennials: 81 percent believe in global warming, and 65 percent believe that human activity is primarily to blame.
Even Republican millennials and those who lean Republican agree: 57 percent believe there is solid evidence that the Earth is warming, though only 29 percent believe that human activity is primarily responsible. Among millennial Democrats and those who lean Democratic, the sentiment is nearly unanimous: 94 percent acknowledge global warming, and 87 percent believe human activity is to blame.
The results were culled from a series of surveys that Pew conducted throughout 2017.
Millennials are the only generation in which a majority (57 percent) holds consistently liberal (25 percent) or mostly liberal (32 percent) positions. Just 12 percent have consistently or mostly conservative attitudes, the lowest of any generation. An additional 31 percent of millennials reported a mix of conservative and liberal views.
On the political front, just 27 percent of millennials approved of President Trump's job performance, while 65 percent disapproved. Among Generation X, Trump had a 36 percent approval rating. Baby boomers gave him a 44 percent approval rating, while the silent generation, born between 1928 and 1945, gave him a 46 percent approval rating.
In a January Pew poll testing midterm voting preferences, 62 percent of millennial registered voters said they preferred a Democratic candidate for Congress in their district this fall. Only 29 percent said they would prefer the Republican candidate.
By comparison, a national poll on the generic congressional ballot, released by CNN last week, showed 54 percent of voters preferring Democrats and 38 percent favoring Republicans. Those numbers moved from 49 percent Democratic to 44 percent Republican a month earlier.
"Millennial voters have generally favored Democrats in midterms, and that trend continues," the Pew report says. "But, comparing early preferences this year with surveys conducted in previous midterm years, Millennial registered voters support the Democrat by a wider margin than in the past."
That's where the Tufts study comes in.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement created a Youth Electoral Significance Index, using demographics, historical voting patterns and projected competitiveness to produce a ranking of the congressional districts where young people (ages 18-29) have the highest potential for impact on the 2018 elections.
The study identified 10 swing districts with large populations of young people, including college campuses. They were:
Iowa's 1st District
The Cedar Rapids-based district, represented for two terms by Rep. Rod Blum (R), went through a stunning transformation in 2016, giving Trump a 3-point edge after President Obama carried it by 14 points in 2012. But Blum is a top Democratic target this cycle, and The Cook Political Report rates the race a "Toss-Up." Four Democrats are competing for the right to take Blum on in November.
Minnesota's 1st District
Based in southern Minnesota, this is another district that went from Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Rep. Tim Walz (D) is departing to run for governor, and there are competitive primaries in both parties to see who will replace him. One of the Democratic candidates, Joe Sullivan, is a renewable energy entrepreneur whose campaign signs feature an image of a windmill. This is another "Toss-Up" district, according to Cook.
Minnesota's 3rd District
Based in the suburbs west of Minneapolis, this "Toss-Up" district has been represented since 2009 by Rep. Erik Paulsen (R), even though Obama carried it twice and Hillary Clinton carried it by 9 points in 2016. The leading Democratic candidate is businessman and philanthropist Dean Phillips, who is driving around the district in a truck that says "government repair truck."
Michigan's 11th District
Six Republicans and five Democrats are competing for this open seat in the Detroit suburbs, which Rep. Dave Trott (R) is leaving after just two terms. It also is rated as a "Toss-Up" by The Cook Political Report.
Colorado's 6th District
This "Toss-Up" district in the suburbs of Denver, represented by Rep. Mike Coffman (R) since 2009, has been a battleground for several election cycles, and Clinton carried it by 9 points. The likely Democratic nominee is attorney and Iraq War veteran Jason Crow. A recent poll commissioned by the political reform group End Citizens United showed Crow leading Coffman 44 percent to 39 percent. The poll of 751 registered voters, taken Feb. 15-18 by Public Policy Polling, had a 3.6-point margin of error.
Minnesota's 8th District
Another "Toss-Up" open seat, held by retiring Rep. Rick Nolan (D), is in the conservative Iron Range. The district has mostly been held by Democrats through the decades, but Trump carried it by 16 points in 2016, four years after Obama won it by 6 points. Democrats have a five-way primary underway, while the lone Republican candidate so far is St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber, a former professional hockey player.
Illinois' 6th District
Six-term Rep. Peter Roskam (R) is a top target in this "Toss-Up" suburban Chicago district, which Clinton and Obama carried. The Democratic nominee will be decided in a seven-way primary on March 20. One of the leading candidates is Sean Casten, a co-founder of Recycled Energy Development LLC, which operated energy plants within U.S. manufacturing facilities.
Nebraska's 2nd District
The Omaha-based "Toss-Up" district could feature a rematch between freshman Rep. Don Bacon (R) and the man he ousted by 1 point in 2016, former Rep. Brad Ashford (D). But Ashford must first get through a Democratic primary with Kara Eastman, a nonprofit executive. Trump carried the district by 2 points in 2016 and Romney won it in 2012, but Obama carried it in 2008.
Minnesota's 2nd District
This suburban "Toss-Up" district, south of the Twin Cities, seems to be headed for a rematch between freshman Rep. Jason Lewis (R) and health care executive Angie Craig (D), whom he defeated by 2 points. Trump carried the district by 1 point in 2016, and Obama and Romney essentially tied there four years earlier.
California's 39th District
This is the only district on the list that isn't currently rated a "Toss-Up" by The Cook Political Report; in fact, it favors Democrats, even though it has long been held by House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R), who is retiring after 13 terms. Based in northern, inland Orange County, the district went for Clinton by 8 points in 2016.
Later this month, the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement will release lists of the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races where millennials are poised to have the most impact.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.