In The Seattle Times, Brian M. Rosenthal reports on the nuanced political views of “millennials” — America’s under-30 generation. National survey data show that these young adults are largely liberal, but nevertheless have conservative views on certain issues.
What about millennials here in King County? Are their politics typical of their generation? King County’s population is well-known for being more Democratic than most of the country — are our millennials following suit? Looking for answers, I turned to data from surveys conducted here and around the nation in 2011 and 2012 by Scarborough Research.
The survey data indicate that millennials in King County, just like millennials across the country, are more “blue” than they are “red.” No surprise there. But delving a little deeper into the data, things get more interesting.
Take a look at these two pie charts. The first illustrates the political party affiliations of 18-29 year-olds in the United States, and the second shows the same age group in King County. The pies are divided into three slices: Democrats and those who lean Democratic; Republicans and those who lean Republican; and a third category that includes Independents and folks who feel unaffiliated with any major political party.
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I had expected King County millennials to be “bluer” than their contemporaries nationwide, and as you can see from the charts, they are. But take a look at King County’s red slice of the pie. It’s bigger than the U.S. red slice — 20 percent bigger, in fact. Yes, millennials in King County are not only more Democratic than their contemporaries nationwide; they are also, surprisingly, more Republican.
Of course, if King County youth are both more Democratic and more Republican, they have to be less something else, and indeed they are. As the charts illustrate, millennials here are significantly less likely to identify with Independents and those who are unaffiliated with any major political party. This is, in fact, the single biggest difference between King County millennials and their counterparts nationwide, in terms of the data presented here.
So King County millennials are different. Compared to their peers across the country, they are more willing to identify as either “blue” or “red.” They are less likely to occupy the political middle ground, or simply disengage from mainstream political discourse. To me, this suggests that they might be more politically polarized, and perhaps also more politically engaged.
What do the data suggest to you? Feel free to offer your interpretation or reaction in the comments.