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YOUNG REPUBLICANS SEE U.S. AS DEMOCRACY IN TROUBLE. There’s a new poll of young people out from the Harvard University Institute of Politics. The pollsters asked Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 a lot of questions about political issues, what’s important to them, and their views on life. But perhaps the most interesting result came in response to this broad question:
Which of the following phrases best describes the United States today?
A healthy democracy
A somewhat functioning democracy
A democracy in trouble
A failed democracy
The headline was that a significant number of young people describe the U.S. as a failed democracy or a democracy in trouble. Overall, 13% of those surveyed described the U.S. as a failed democracy, while 39% called the country a democracy in trouble. (Just 7% said the U.S. is a healthy democracy, while 27% called it a somewhat functioning democracy, and 13% did not know.)
But look a little more deeply inside the numbers. Who is calling the U.S. a troubled democracy? Is it mostly lefty youth listening to lefty professors and lefty podcasts while their parents watch Rachel Maddow and everybody votes Democrat? Or is it mostly young people on the Right, Republicans who voted to reelect President Donald Trump in 2020?
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It’s Republicans. Harvard provided a detailed breakdown of the survey, which questioned 2,109 people nationwide. And Republicans who voted for Trump were more likely than Democrats who voted for Joe Biden to call U.S. democracy troubled. Just 9% of young Biden voters called the U.S. a “failed democracy,” while 22% of young Trump voters did. While 41% of Biden voters called the U.S. a “democracy in trouble,” the number for Trump voters was 53%.
The figures were slightly different for Republicans overall, including those in the GOP who did not vote for Trump in 2020. But they were still quite negative on the state of American democracy. Among all Republicans, 23% said the U.S. is a failed democracy, versus just 8% of Democrats. Forty-seven percent of young Republicans said the U.S. is a democracy in trouble, versus 37% of young Democrats.
The bottom line: 70% of young Republicans, and 75% of young Trump voters, say American democracy is in bad shape — versus 45% of Democrats and 50% of Biden voters.
Those are big numbers. But no one should be shocked. After all, young Democrats are constantly hearing from their party leaders that democracy is under siege, that Republicans are plotting to undermine democracy, and that Stacey Abrams is a party heroine. And young Democrats are hearing from Trump that the 2020 election was rigged and that no future elections can be fair unless they “stop the steal.”
Perhaps the truly amazing thing is that 7% of young people believe the U.S. is a healthy democracy and that 27% see it as at least “somewhat functioning.”
They’re the ones who are correct, of course. Yes, the past few years have been rocky politically — and that is most of what today’s young people have experienced first-hand. But the fact is, Republicans are not plotting to undermine democracy, and the 2020 election was not stolen. Of course partisans are upset or angry that their candidate or cause did not prevail. But major elections are coming up next year and again in 2024. Look at the intense preparations already underway for both. The U.S. remains a highly functioning democracy.
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