Home/Daniel Larison/Millennials Fled the GOP in 2006 and 2008, and the Iraq War Was a Major Reason Why

Millennials Fled the GOP in 2006 and 2008, and the Iraq War Was a Major Reason Why

Noah Millman continues the discussion on Iraq and young voters:

Finally, the data doesn’t support Daniel McCarthy’s conclusions. Take a look at the polling data that Daniel Larison presents in this post. According to Gallup, while every age cohort thinks the Iraq War was a mistake, the most supportive cohort is 18-29 year olds. The second most supportive is 30-49 year olds. The least supportive are the over-65 contingent. The data is similar with respect to Afghanistan (30-49 year olds are somewhat more supportive than 18-29 year olds of that conflict), and also with respect to Vietnam, a war those two youngest cohorts cannot remember. Indeed, a majority of 18-29 year olds think the Vietnam War was not a mistake, while the overwhelming majority of the over-65 cohort, who actually remember that war, do consider it to have been a mistake.

This is indeed what the new Gallup poll shows, but I don’t think these results undermine Dan’s larger argument. First, the Gallup survey is of adults nationwide, while other surveys of voters confirm that younger voting cohorts have been and continue to be more antiwar than their elders. This is the point Jamelle Bouie was making earlier today, and it is confirmed when we look at the voting patterns of the youngest cohorts in elections since 2006 and their views on the relevant issues. The 2008 pre-election survey that Bouie cites asked voters aged 18-29 whether U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Iraq immediately, on a timetable, or kept there until the situation is “stable.” 44% wanted withdrawal according to a timetable, 26% wanted immediate withdrawal, and just 25% preferred wanted the troops to stay. That’s not the response of a cohort that’s evenly split on the merits of the Iraq war. According to Pew, disapproval of the war in the 2008 election was by far the highest among voters 18-29 years old:


The war was instrumental in driving younger voters away from the GOP and into the Democratic coalition in 2006 and 2008, and most of them have remained there since then. Of course, Iraq was not the only thing about the Republican Party and mainstream conservatism that alienated Millennials, but it is correct to say that the Iraq war increased and hastened Millennial alienation from both. The important point is that the GOP was already going to be struggling to appeal to a more diverse, more liberal younger generation, and a foreign policy defined by the Iraq debacle has made that task even more difficult. So the sobering thing for Republicans to consider is that the Iraq war is a liability for them with Americans of all ages, and it has already proven to be a disaster for them with younger voters.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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