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Young Voters Are Driving “Generational Shift” to the Left, Ocasio-Cortez Says

Millennials and Gen Z are taking over the electorate and potentially ushering in a new, progressive era of politics.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) speaks to abortion-rights activists in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the Court announced a ruling in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case on June 24, 2022 in Washington, D.C.

As the results of the midterm elections roll in and it’s becoming clearer that Democrats may have exceeded expectations despite the odds stacked against them, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) is emphasizing the impact of young voters on this election, saying that younger generations may be ushering in a new era of politics.

According to exit polls, young voters overwhelmingly supported Democrats in this election; data from Edison Research shows that 63 percent of Gen Z and millennial voters, aged 18 to 29, voted for Democrats, while 35 percent voted for Republicans. People aged 30 to 44, largely millennials, favored Democrats by a 6-point margin, with 51 percent saying they voted for Democrats and 45 percent saying they voted Republican.

Though exit poll findings are often inaccurate and should be taken with a grain of salt, they can be a general show of how certain demographics voted — and, indeed, other research has shown that young voters lean much more heavily to the left than older voters do.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Ocasio-Cortez emphasized that youth turnout was a major factor in Democrats’ ability to bat off a “red wave,” which was expected as it’s typical for the party of the president to lose a large amount of seats in Congress during their first term. She said that younger generations are driving a “generational shift.”

“The role of young people in this election cannot be understated. Turnout delivered on many of these races,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “By 2024, Millennials and Gen Z voters will outnumber voters who are Baby Boomers and older, 45/25. We are beginning to see the political impacts of that generational shift.”

Polls have shown that, not only are young voters more likely to support Democrats, they are also most likely of all age groups to support explicitly progressive policies like Medicare for All, a Green New Deal and student debt cancellation. At the same time, young voters are more likely to choose not to vote at all, and young voters describe being frustrated with establishment politics and inaction from Democrats on key issues like the climate crisis.

Indeed, as a Harvard Institute of Politics poll of voters aged 18 to 29 found in October, only about 40 percent of young voters say they approve of the job performance of President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress, despite preferring Democratic control of Congress by a nearly 2 to 1 margin over Republican control.

It’s possible that factors in politics like the rise of the far right are driving young voters to cast a ballot, however. According to the Harvard poll, about 40 percent of young voters said that they would vote in this election, about the same percentage of voters who said they would vote in 2018 and up over 10 percentage points from the 2014 and 2020 midterm elections.

As younger generations take over the voting population, they are also leading their own political movements, perhaps driven by disengagement with mainstream, centrist Democrats like Biden.

Recent movements like the anti-gun violence March for Our Lives, the climate-focused Sunrise Movement and the burgeoning labor movement led by organizers at companies like Starbucks have been youth-led, seeking to solve problems that their generation was forced into by the generation that largely remains in power in Washington.

One such progressive youth leader won his election to Congress on Tuesday; Maxwell Frost, a former March for Our Lives activist and 25-year-old member of Gen Z easily won his election to represent the Orlando, Florida area, becoming the first member of his generation to be elected to Congress.

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