The Republicans are a mess. The Democrats are a mess. And young Americans are increasingly unsure about aligning themselves with either one.
New research from NBC News and the University of Chicago polling group GenForward found millennials—poised to be the biggest voting bloc in 2020—overwhelmingly want more political options. A full 71 percent of the 18- to 34-year-olds polled said that America needs a third major political party.
The desire for a third-party option was seen across all races, genders, and partisan affiliations in the poll, which was conducted from October 26 to November 10. Respondents included a nationally representative sample of 1,876 people.
More than half of those surveyed (59 percent) had an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, and 42 percent had an unfavorable view of the Democratic Party. (This is with an overall margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.92 percentage points.) Only 5 percent had a "very favorable" view of Republicans and only 10 percent had a very favorable view of Democrats.
Nearly three-quarters of men and 69 percent of women wanted more political-party options. Republican women were the least likely to want a third party, with just 55 percent agreeing. If you combine the race and sex categories, white male and black female millennials were the most likely to voice support for a third party: 80 percent of the former and 73 percent of the latter endorsed the notion.
Overall, white millennials were most likely to want a third major party, with 75 percent embracing the idea. But strong majorities were seen across all racial and ethnic groups, with 69 percent of blacks and Asians and 64 percent of Latinos agreeing. (The margin of sampling error for some of these groups was quite high—as much as plus or minus 8.75 points for Asian respondents.)
Asked about the 2018 congressional election, 43 percent said they are either not sure whether they plan to vote Democratic or Republican or do not plan to vote for candidates from either party; pollsters didn't press further to see if this indicated a lack of any plans to vote in 2018 or a desire to vote for a third-party candidate. Of these millennials in the neither/not sure category, 16 percent said they leaned more toward Republicans, 32 percent said they leaned more toward Democrats, and 50 percent said they didn't lean toward either.
Needless to say, the fact that so many people want a third party doesn't mean they want the same third party. Alas, the pollsters didn't inquire about just what sort of party people would like to see. Nor did they ask whether people want just one more party or a multitude. And they didn't include any questions seeking opinions on the parties that are already out there: the Libertarians, the Greens, and so on. The poll strongly suggests that young Americans want more options, but it won't tell you anything about what missing choices they have in mind.