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Republicans have a millennial women problem

Nearly 70 percent of young women say they are leaning toward Democratic candidates in the midterms.

Women’s March co-chairs Linda Sarsour (left) and Tamika D. Mallory speak in Las Vegas in January.
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Li Zhou is a politics reporter at Vox, where she covers Congress and elections. Previously, she was a tech policy reporter at Politico and an editorial fellow at the Atlantic.

If Democrats retake control of Congress in November, it will be in part due to their strength with young women.

A new survey from the Pew Research Center finds young women — between the ages of 18 and 34 — far and away prefer the Democratic congressional candidate in their districts. Their preference for Democrats is significantly higher than that of women of other age groups.

Women overall are likely to lean blue, with 54 percent supporting or leaning toward the Democratic candidate in their district this fall, versus 38 percent who favor the Republican candidate. But 68 percent of young women are choosing Democrats, compared to 24 percent who prefer Republicans.

Younger men, meanwhile, give Republican candidates the slight edge.

Pew Research Center

This data reinforces a trend that Pew has been observing for the past few years, which has seen young women take a sharp turn to the left.

Pew Research Center

As this chart shows, the trend accelerated right around the 2016 election. Millennial women appear to have been pushed further toward the left by the election of Donald Trump.

In October 2016, the Washington Post published an Access Hollywood tape that caught Trump bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy” — comments he later brushed off as mere “locker room talk.” Since then, more than 20 women have accused him of sexual misconduct, allegations he’s responded to by denigrating several of the women.

Meanwhile, loyalty to the president is proving to be among the most important qualifications for conservative candidates seeking public office. Women like Reps. Martha Roby and Barbara Comstock who have spoken out against him have seen these critiques come back to bite them at the polls.

At the same time, Democrats have sought to frame themselves as a party that promotes women candidates and female empowerment in the age of #MeToo — with a record number of women vying for Democratic congressional spots this year, even as the party continues to be divided by the response to allegations against former Sen. Al Franken.

Against that backdrop, young women — who have been a driving force in grassroots activism pushing for gender parity — seem to have made a clear choice.

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