On Sunday, the Times Review section had an interesting article on defectors from the Republican party--both those whose voted for Romney in 2012, but not for Trump in 2016 and those who voted for Trump in 2016 but did not vote Republican in 2018. The authors run down the patterns in these fairly substantial defections, using the very good, large sample Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES).
By and large, I would not say their results are hugely surprising, but do confirm one's intuitions about who is bailing from today's GOP. In particular, there is this:
"[O]ne-third of 2012 Romney voters who were under 40 in 2016 did not vote for Mr. Trump, but rather stayed home, voted for Mrs. Clinton or voted for a third-party candidate. Among the under-40 Romney voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, 16 percent appear to have defected from the party to vote for a Democratic House candidate in 2018. Of course, we don’t know how they will vote in 2020, but what this means is that in the past two elections Republicans may have lost more than 40 percent of Romney voters born after 1976....
[I]t is the graying of the Republican coalition that is arguably the biggest threat to the party’s prospects. It is true that on average, older people are more reliable voters than younger people. But the partisan identities and voting behaviors that people adopt early in the life cycle tend to stick, becoming routines that people carry on for the remainder of their lives."
And it is further among white voters in these younger generations where the loosening Republican hold could be most deadly for the party. As I have noted before, Democrats carried the national House vote among whites under 45, as well as whites under 45 in most statewide contests of importance. Whites under 45 in the electorate currently include the leading edge of Gen Z, the entire Millennial generation and the younger, more liberal half of Gen X.
If these political leanings among younger generation whites carry forward--as it seems likely they will--the road becomes increasingly treacherous for the GOP. Fast forward just a bit to 2028 and these same generational groupings will comprise around three-fifths of white eligible voters.
That suggests the Republicans will eventually have to implement some sort of course correction. But how and when? My crystal ball is murky....