Once again dominating U.S. political news, former President Donald Trump was arraigned on June 13 in Miami on 37 federal charges for taking classified documents from the White House and refusing to return them. It’s the latest Trump story in a stream that’s absorbed American media from the time he declared his first presidential candidacy eight years ago. Since then, mainstream U.S. political talk has focused regularly on Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, the roiling populism it’s unleashed, and the implications of it all for an American democracy sometimes apparently under threat.

Meanwhile, a striking change has been taking place across a vast swath of American society that’s determining more and more of American democracy’s future: its younger voters. And it’s a change that could have major implications not just for Trump’s style of politics but for the United States’ election results and national policies for decades to come.

Large majorities of the two youngest generations of Americans—Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) and Generation Z (1997 and 2010)—consistently support opinions to the left of the political center on their country’s most controversial issues, whether on abortion, gun control, race, same-sex marriage, or transgender rights. Like many young generations in recent U.S. history, Millennials and Gen Z tend to vote for the Democratic Party more consistently than other age groups do—but they also tend to identify with the Democrats much more strongly than previous generations did when they were young. What’s happening here?

David A. Hopkins is an associate professor of political science at Boston College. As Hopkins sees it, this great shift to the left among younger voters is part of a major social transformation in America. It’s visible in the ways influential U.S. institutions—from universities to entertainment media, to corporations—have been adopting and promoting progressive moral and political positions on questions of identity, race, and gender. And it’s started to alter the composition of the Democratic Party’s base—along with the party’s political rhetoric and policy priorities.

It’s not clear, however, what these changes will mean for American politics in the longer term, Hopkins says—not least because ultimately, American politics tends to reshape itself around the larger social and generational changes that are continually reshaping the country.

Michael Bluhm: What do we know about the political beliefs and party allegiances of Millennial and Generation Z voters in the U.S.?

David A. Hopkins: We know that in the aggregate, they’re clearly Democratic-leaning. The Democrat’s advantage when it comes to party identification and voting is greater among Millennials and Gen Z than it is among any older generation—and arguably greater than it’s been among any older generation when it was younger.

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