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Gallup poll: Republicans in trouble as young whites shift to Democrats

According to a new Gallup survey, the Republican party is even more trouble demographically than previously considered, as younger grown-ups -- defined as those falling between the ages of 18 and 29 -- have become significantly more inclined to consider themselves Democrats in the past ten years.

From 1993 to 2003, about 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds recognized themselves as Democrats or were Democratic-leaning independents versus only 42% who self-identified as Republicans or Republican voters. That time frame incorporated the two outlier years of New Gingrich's Republican revolution -- 1994-1995 -- in which Republicans had the upper hand with young adults. Those young Republicans helped Republicans win control of Congress for the first time in two generations, up to that point.

Nonetheless, since 2006, the growing partisan gap among young people and older voters has energized Democrats, who have enjoyed an average 18-point gap in their favor among youth, 54% to 36%.

Most ominously for conservatives, young Caucasian adults -- who long aligned themselves with Republicans -- have adjusted their party affiliation to the more liberal and progressive Democrats.

In the ten years beginning with 1995, younger whites reliably recognized themselves as Republican by a norm of about eight percentage points. Since 2006 however, young whites between ages 18 and 29 have indicated a preference for the Democratic Party in eight of nine years -- disastrous news for a Republican Party increasingly dependent on the white electorate for its votes.

What's more depressing for conservatives' attempts to shift the public policy debate in their favor: the increasing diversity of the electorate in general in addition their growing disfavor among young white Americans. Up until now, Republicans have been able to stymie impending political doom by increasing gains with older votes, particularly whites of retirement age who are consistently more right wing than their children and grandchildren.

But the new Gallup polling suggests that the right wing may quickly end up in an undeniably and perhaps permanently frail position against the Democrats unless it can widen its engagement with more youthful and nonwhite U.S. citizens.