More than twice as many 18-29 year olds voted for President Barack Obama as for John McCain in 2008, and one year later the party preferences of college students remain similarly lopsided in favor of the Democratic Party and its political point of view.
The most recent data from communication research company Frank N. Magid Associates' show an equal percentage of students, 18 and older, call themselves liberals or progressives (31%) as describe their political philosophy as moderate (30%). By contrast, only 20% describe themselves as conservative, while another 20% haven't learned enough in college yet to say just what their ideological orientation is. Survey research data from 2008 and 2009 actually showed self-described moderates as the most common philosophical designation by Millennials, born between 1982 and 2003, with liberalism in second place. But those studies included Millennials who were not on campus, which suggests either that college students are a more liberal bunch than non-students by nature or there has been further movement toward liberalism among Millennials during the first year of Obama's presidency.
Almost all students on campus today are members of the Millennial Generation and bring that generation's commitment to civic engagement and consensus decision making to the political process. Unlike many members of Generation X or Baby Boomers who preceded them, a majority of Millennials believes in using government to help address societal problems and economic inequality. These philosophic touchstones form the basis of their political identification and belief system.
Millennials were inclined to be Democrats before Obama ran for presidency and both his campaign and his presidency have solidified that tendency. Beginning in 2006 as Millennials made their presence known among 18-29 year old voters, partisan identification among this age group moved from a roughly 50/50 split to a clear preference for the Democratic Party. In 2008, Millennials voted more than 2:1 for Obama over McCain (66% vs. 32%) and by roughly the same percentage (63% vs. 34%) for Democratic congressional candidates. Magid's 2010 data shows this same level of Democratic identification persisting among Millennials who are attending college. Twice as many college students call themselves Democrats as Republicans (47% vs. 24%). Only 15% are independents, with a similar percentage unwilling to identify with any of those three choices.
These numbers suggest the Young Republicans have a lot of work to do just to break even, while Young Democrats should have a rockin' good time of it on college campuses across America.