New Research Shows Why Majority of Young People Lean Left

April 8th 2015

Laura Donovan

More than half of Millennials identify as Democrats or lean left, according to new data from the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, 35 percent of surveyed Millennials identified as Republican or leaned right.

The Pew Research Center, which conducted more than 25,000 interviews for this new analysis, also found that the Democratic Party tends to attract more racial diversity than the Republican party and has more support from Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians. The GOP has more pull among whites, particularly males. According to Pew, 44 percent of Millennials are non-white so that likely contributes to the 16-point advantage for Democrats with Millennials. More white Millennials, on the other hand, identify with the Republican Party or lean right, although less so than older, white Americans.

Groups that lean left and right

Pew Research Center

What are some issues that are pushing Millennials to the left?


Millennials care about the immigration issue because it's more likely to impact them or people they know. One in five Millennials has at least one immigrant parent, and Asians and Hispanics make up more than a quarter of the Millennial population, according to 2012 findings from researchers Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais. Many Republicans, though, have been against immigration reform, including the DREAM Act (and President Obama's executive-order equivalent), which directly impacts Millennials by helping undocumented young people who were brought to the United States as children. These findings are consistent with other research conducted on race and political stances. Last year, Fusion released a Millennial poll that revealed less than 20 percent of young Hispanics felt the Republican party represented their feelings on immigration.


Education is another reason young people might find themselves leaning left. The issue is fresh for Millennials, who are either in school, have friends and family in school, or are possibly paying off student loan debt. While high-profile Democrats such as President Obama and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have pushed to increase grants and lower interest rates toward affordable education, Republican governors, such as Wisconsin's Scott Walker and Kansas' Sam Brownback, have instead advocated for cuts to higher education.


Even young conservatives appear to be adopting a more liberal stance on drugs. Last month, Pew reported that more than 75 percent of left-leaning Millennials and 63 percent of right-leaning Millennials support legalizing marijuana. While Democrats have hardly championed legalization, they have been more open to decriminalization and medical marijuana, particularly at the state and local level. Aside from notable exceptions like Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Republicans have largely opposed these efforts.

Same-sex Marriage

Despite the massive shift in public opinion on same-sex marriage, Republican politicians have mostly avoided supporting LGBT equality efforts, although many have put aside outright hostility. For Millennials, there's a strong consensus toward the liberal side of the debate, and like drugs, even younger conservatives depart from their Republican Party elders. Over the last few years, Democrats have been outspoken in their support for the LGBT community, and this has probably translated in support from young people.