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Poll: Young Democrats, Republicans live in bubbles, interact in distinct social groups

In an era of deep polarization and partisanship, Americans are often accused of living in their own bubbles. And a new poll suggests that younger Americans are continuing that characteristic.

While millennials are often touted as a tolerant and inclusive generation, figures from the newest Harvard Institute of Politics poll show young partisans actually interact in distinct and segregated social groups.

The figures, released Tuesday, measured how likely 18- to 29-year-olds are to have a close relationship with those in various segments of the American population. What the Harvard poll found is that one’s political affiliation is likely to determine who they consider close friends, highlighting that young Democrats and Republicans share different social circles.

“For example, if you are a young Republican in America today, you are significantly more likely than a young Democrat to have … a close relationship with a gun owner. In fact, whether or not you know somebody well who owns a gun is one of the most significant predictors of voter intention and party ID,” said John Della Volpe, Polling Director at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

Eighty percent of Republicans have a close relationship with a gun owner compared to 49 percent of Democrats, while 85 percent of Republicans have close relationships with Donald Trump voters compared to 39 percent of Democrats. Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to be close with truck drivers, recent veterans, born again or evangelical Christians, police officers and drug addicts or someone in recovery.

Conversely, Democratic respondents were more likely to be close to Hillary Clinton voters, LGBTQ people, Muslims and Ivy League students or alumni.

“So we can have very, very kind of different communities of trust based upon which party you’re a part of and other factors,” Della Volpe said.

Read a summary of the poll’s findings.

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