Rule of Three
This poll analysis confirms a lot of things that have been fairly obvious for quite some time: 1) young voters are liberal on social issues and lack a go-to ideology on economic issues; 2) young voters are less partisan; 3) young voters were more motivated by the campaign of Barack Obama in 2008 than they were the principles of the Democratic Party.
As someone who supports a strong party system, one point in here is particularly jarring: the re-consideration of the Rule of Three. According to the Rule of Three, once a person has voted for a particular party in three consecutive elections (generally their first 3 elections), they develop a loyalty to that party that is hard to shake.
But according to this NYT analysis: “Some academics who study voting patterns say that the rule of three is too simplistic, and that lots of factors combine to determine a person’s place on the political spectrum. Individual votes, said Donald P. Green, a professor of political science at Yale who studies voter behavior, matter less than the social fabric that people grow into — in jobs, social life, community and values.”
Over the past few decades there has been a steady erosion of ancestral party ties; now it seems people are less likely to even reliably stick with a party they choose themselves.
I know defending the party system is unpopular, particularly in online political discussions in which the limitations of party politics are a common topic. There will always be independents, there will always be third party voters, and there will always be people who don’t feel comfortable identifying as Democrat or Republican (or liberal or conservative for that matter) and choose to flip their vote with the circumstances of a given election. That’s fine. But without a core of loyal partisans (replenished with each generation), parties are less likely to hold onto a stable set of principles, instead needing to build a voter coalition that helps carry them over whichever electoral threshold they currently face. Candidates themselves become less dependent on their respective parties and often instead turn to showboating for campaign dollars and headlines. And the irony is, the more embarrassing the state of American politics becomes as a result of weakened parties, the more fed up voters become with politicians, the more likely voters are to blame partisanship and sever allegiance with their Party.