A boy listens to Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump during a campaign rally in the Lakawanna College Student Union November 7, 2016 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. (Chip Somodevilla--Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images
By Charlotte Alter
May 19, 2017

Nearly a quarter of young people who identified as Republicans in 2015 now lean towards Democrats, according to a new study.

Overall, most people who identify with a certain party tend to maintain their political affiliation. But according to a Pew Research study about party loyalty, young Republicans are far more likely to switch parties than older Republicans or Democrats of any age. The researchers found that only about half of surveyed Republicans under 30 stayed steadfastly loyal to their party from 2015 on: 21% left the party but returned by March 2017, and 23% defected to the Democrats. That was significantly higher than the number of young Democrats who defected to the Republican side (9%) or the number of older Democrats who defected (14%.)

Overall, both Republicans and Democrats have only about a 10% defection rate. But between 2015 and 2017, the data suggests that Trump has been the main reason for defection in both directions. Among Republicans who have defected from the party, 57% said they strongly disapprove of Trump, among Democrats who have defected from their party, 32% strongly approve of Trump.

Overall, people who are less politically engaged are more likely to switch sides, and Democrats had a slight edge among those voters: 15% of less engaged Republicans became Democrats, while 12% of less engaged Democrats became Republicans.

The research was conducted by the American Trends Panel at the Pew Research Center, in a survey of 5,154 adults over two years.

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