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Race, Gender, Party Shaped the Republican Youth Vote on Super Tuesday

Various demographic factors influenced who young Republicans voted for across the party's Super Tuesday primaries and caucuses.

With the Republican presidential nomination still competitive, results from Super Tuesday’s Republican primaries can provide insight into upcoming contests. An estimated 900,000 young people participated in Republican contests on Super Tuesday for which we can calculate estimates. This post will break down differences between the youth who participated, as well as between young people and older voters.1

Young Women and Youth with College Experience Weren’t Strong Trump Supporters

Young women (under age 30) were a weak constituency for Donald Trump. He got just 23% of their votes and came in third, after Senator Rubio and Senator Cruz. He did better with young men, drawing 33% of their votes (a plurality). Older men were Donald Trump’s strongest constituency: 40% of men over 30 voted for him. Women 60 or older also gave him a plurality of their votes (34%).

Young adults with college experience were also a weak constituency for Trump. He got 27% of their vote, just above Cruz at 23% but well below Rubio at 35%. In contrast, he came in first among young people who haven’t attended college (37%), and his strongest constituency was voters 60 or older without college experience (48%).

Marco Rubio did comparatively well among young Republicans, more so among 17 to 24-year-olds, with a large difference in level of support between youth with and without college experience (35% and 10%, respectively). However, young women supported Rubio more than young men did (32% versus 28%).

Are the Republican Primaries Engaging Youth who are not Republican?

A significant portion of youth participating in Super Tuesday Republican primaries did not identify with the party. Forty percent of young men identified as “Independent or something else,” while 26% of young women said the same. Youth with no college experience were more likely (37%) to identify as “Independent or something else” than youth with college experience (33%). A very small percentage of each youth sub-group reported identifying as Democrat, ranging from 2% to 5%. We do not have data from previous years that would allow us to tell whether the Independent proportion was unusually high.

Other Differences from Republican Primary Voters Overall?

Young people who participated in Republican primaries on Super Tuesday were somewhat more diverse as a whole than older voters.

Youth who participated were also less likely to say they are conservative than older voters. Overall, 22% of Republican primary participants on Super Tuesday said they are moderate or liberal, including 36% of young women and 31% of youth with college experience.

When asked about the performance of the federal government, young voters in these Republican primaries were considerably more likely to say they were “satisfied, but not enthusiastic” with “the way the federal government is working.” Among youth, young men were most likely to say that they are angry about the federal government (33%), not close to the 44% of overall voters who said the same, and much less than older men. Older, non-college voters were also most likely to describe themselves as “angry” about the federal government (46%) and as conservatives (84%, though men 60+ were overall very likely to report being conservative at 83%). In contrast, just 27% of young Republican voters with any college experience said they were angry, and 69% called themselves conservatives.

Young people were also more likely than older voters to say that they want a new president to “have experience in politics.” Sixty-five percent of young women felt that way, while 41% of all Republican primary voters on Super Tuesday said the same. Young women were also more likely than young men to say that the ability to “bring about needed change” mattered most to how they voted. Among youth, young men and 25 to 29-year-olds (of both genders) were most likely to say they want the new president to “be from outside the political establishment” (39% and 38%, respectively), while 49% of all voters said the same.

Across the board, young people were more likely than older voters to report that the Economy/Jobs were the most important out of the four issues named in the exit polls, which also included Government spending, Terrorism and Immigration. Young men were most inclined to make this choice, and least inclined to say government spending. Young people were more likely than older people to prefer a candidate who has experience in politics.

[1] Data in this post is aggregated state exit poll data from Edison Research and includes data from the 2016 Republican primaries in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont and Virginia.