What explains support for the Democratic Party and liberalism among younger Americans today? One likely explanation is that Americans under the age of 30 have come of age politically during the George W. Bush presidency. The political attitudes of younger citizens are generally influenced much more than those of older citizens by recent events. Just as the political attitudes of an earlier generation of Americans were shaped by the Great Depression and the New Deal, the political attitudes of the current under-30 generation have been shaped by the war in Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and economic stagnation. It is no exaggeration to say that the Bush presidency has given both conservatism and the Republican Party a bad name among younger Americans.
There is no guarantee that the current Democratic advantage among younger Americans will last beyond 2008. It was Roosevelt's New Deal more than the Great Depression that caused many young people during the 1930s to become lifelong Democrats. Discontent with the leadership and policies of George Bush will not turn the current generation of young people into lifelong Democrats. Whether Democrats can turn their temporary advantage into a long-term advantage--one that could help them to solidify their position as the majority party in the U.S. for decades to come--will depend on whether the next Democratic president and Congress can actually deliver the kinds of changes that most Americans, and especially most younger Americans, want including ending the war in Iraq, reforming health care, expanding economic opportunity, protecting the environment, and above all restoring faith in the fairness and competence of government as an institution.