Poll: millennials prefer a Democratic Congress, but just over half plan to vote in the midterms

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A young boy stands in the doorway of a polling station at a Ross Valley fire station on June 5, 2018, in San Anselmo, California. 

Millennials preferring Democrats to Republicans won’t matter if they don’t show up to the polls in November.

Democrats counting on young people to propel them in the 2018 midterms still have some work to do in convincing them to get to the polls: According to a new survey, millennials like Democrats more than they like Republicans, and they certainly don’t like President Donald Trump — but just over half of them say they plan to vote come November.

An NBC News/GenForward survey released on Wednesday found that just 55 percent of millennials say they either probably or definitely will vote in November. A quarter says they aren’t sure if they’ll go to the polls or not, and 19 percent say they probably or definitely won’t vote.

That’s despite the fact that 59 percent of millennials would prefer that Democrats take control of Congress in the midterms, and just 16 percent approve of how Congress is handling its job. They dislike Republicans: 60 percent have an unfavorable impression of the GOP, and just 26 percent a favorable impression. And 27 percent say they approve of the job Trump is doing.

 NBC News/GenForward
Impression of the Republican Party among millennials.

But they don’t seem to be particularly fired up about Democrats, either. NBC News/GenForward conducts this survey bimonthly, and generally has found millennials are about evenly split on how they feel about the Democratic Party, sometimes feeling slightly more favorable toward it, sometimes less. This time around, 44 percent of millennials said they approve of the Democrats and 42 percent disapprove.

 NBC News/GenForward
Impression of the Democratic Party among millennials.

The survey was conducted from July 26 to August 13 among 1,910 adults ages 18-34.

It suggests that even though millennials seem to prefer Democrats to Republicans, they aren’t overly enthused about politics in general or voting. Sixteen percent of millennials said they have a great deal of interest in politics and elections, while 38 percent said they had a fair amount of interest and 31 percent only a little.

And 47 percent of respondents said they think the 2018 midterms are of the same importance as midterms past, while 29 percent say they’re more important. Asian Americans and Latinos said more frequently than African American and white millennials that voting in November was more important than in other years.

 NBC News/GenForward
How millennials view the importance of voting in the 2018 midterms compared to midterms past.

The survey also asked millennials what they had done to influence politics: 39 percent said they’d voted in previous elections, 28 percent had shared opinions or news articles on social media, and 27 percent had signed an in-person or online petition.

Millennials preferring Democrats to Republicans won’t matter if in November they don’t show up to the polls

That young people aren’t particularly excited to vote in midterm elections isn’t new: As NBC News points out, voters under 30 made up 13 percent of the midterm electorate in 2014, and they made up 12 percent of the electorate in 2010.

People ages 18 to 34 overwhelmingly vote for Democrats and prefer Democratic candidates, even if they’re registered as independents. A CIVIQS poll found that millennials prefer Democrats 53 to 31 percent in the 2018 House of Representatives election, a 22-point split. Millennial women prefer Democrats to Republicans in the House by 33 points, and millennial men by 11 points.

But as Vox’s Tara Golshan recently noted, the problem for Democrats is that young people don’t always vote. Dave Wasserman of the Cook Political report told Golshan that millennials are “volatile” in terms of turnout and, along with Latino voters, are the likeliest to drop out.

Tuesday’s survey shows that a small majority of millennials plan to vote in November — but there’s still a lot of room for growth.