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Poll: Gen X and Gen Z take different political paths

First Read is your briefing from “Meet the Press” and the NBC Political Unit on the day’s most important political stories and why they matter.
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WASHINGTON — If it’s Wednesday ... A helicopter crash outside of Kyiv kills at least 17, including Ukraine’s interior minister. ... Biden White House takes questions about classified documents, telling reporters they are limited what it can disclose due to DOJ investigation. ... But NBC’s Ken Dilanian reports that DOJ has not told the White House it’s prohibited from discussing case. ... Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar get plum committee assignments. ... And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposes new legislation aimed at the GOP base.

But first: Generation X voters — those ages 42 to 57 — have become more conservative and Republican over the last 10 years, while younger Genearation Z voters are much more liberal.

And Millennial voters — those ages 26 to 41 — are less reliably Democratic than they were in 2012, but identify as being slightly more liberal than they used to be. 

These are the findings from merged NBC News polls in 2012 and 2022, containing thousands of interviews from the different generational groups of voters. 

In 2012, when Barack Obama won re-election, Gen X voters preferred Democrats in control of Congress over Republicans by 7 points, 48%-41%. 

Yet 10 years later, when the GOP won control of the House but came up short winning the Senate, Gen X’s voters preferred Republican control by 12 points, 52%-40%. 

Millennial voters also moved more to the GOP: In 2012, these voters preferred Democratic control by 16 points (53%-37%), but that shrank to D+6 in 2022 (48%-42%). (Strikingly, these voters also become more liberal over the last 10 years, but our pollsters attribute that to all Democrats becoming more liberal since 2012 — due the country’s increased political polarization.)

Now some important caveats to these numbers: These are poll findings by generation, not actual votes or changes in party registration. What’s more, they compare the pro-Democratic presidential year of 2012 with a more pro-GOP midterm year of 2022 (even though Republicans ended up underperforming in November). 

Still, the findings confirm what political journalist Ben Jacobs and others have found in their reporting: Gen X — that one-time flannel-wearing, Pearl Jam-listening and “Slacker”-“Singles”-watching generation — has become much more Republican and conservative than it was in the Obama years. 

Our question: Is that due partly to Gen Xers growing up in the Reagan years? While Millennials and Gen Z grew up during the Clinton and Obama presidencies? 

Photo of the Day: Making a ‘splash’ at the White House

Golden State Warriors basketball head coach Steve Kerr, joined by Stephen Curry, speaks at the White House on Jan. 17, 2023.
Golden State Warriors basketball head coach Steve Kerr, joined by Stephen Curry, speaks at the White House on Jan. 17, 2023.Carolyn Kaster / AP

Data Download: The number of the day is … 2

That’s how many Republicans were reinstated on House committees on Tuesday. Democrats removed Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., from their committees in 2021, punishing Greene for a range of controversial comments, including suggesting two school mass shootings were staged, and Gosar for posting an animated video showing him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., and attacking President Joe Biden. 

On Tuesday, with Republicans back in the majority, Greene and Gosar were both placed on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, per NBC News’ Rebecca Shabad and Scott Wong. Gosar will also sit on the Natural Resources Committee, while Greene will serve on the Homeland Security Committee. 

Embattled GOP Rep. George Santos was also given seats on two committees: the Science, Space and Technology Committee, as well as the Small Business Committee.

And Wong and NBC News’ Kyle Stewart break down which committees were assigned to the 21 lawmakers who did not initially back Kevin McCarthy for Speaker, with some getting seats on influential panels after helping McCarthy win the gavel.  

Other numbers to know:

7,501: The number of threats to members of Congress that Capitol Police investigated in 2022 — a decline from 2021 (which included the attack on the Capitol that year), but still what the Capitol Police calls “historically high.”

45: The number of people killed in a Russian missile strike on an apartment building in Ukraine over the weekend. 

66%: Goldman Sachs’ decrease in quarterly profit year-over-year, according to its new earnings report

48%: The share of the Arizona legislature that’s now female, with 40% of all state lawmakers people of color, per the Arizona Republic

5: How many months the city of Jackson, Miss., has been experiencing a water crisis

Eyes on 2024: Keeping up with Ron DeSantis

Less than two weeks after his inauguration, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis isn’t engaging much with the speculation he might run for the GOP presidential nomination next year, even as some Republicans are openly encouraging him to run (with the latest push from several Michigan GOP lawmakers, per Politico). 

But amid the “will-he, won’t he,” it’s worth keeping an eye on what he’s doing as chief executive, knowing that much of the public’s attention is on him.

On Tuesday, DeSantis made two moves sure to excite the GOP base — and frustrate his political opponents. First, he proposed legislation to not only ban Covid-mask mandates, mask and vaccine mandates in schools and “Covid-19 vaccine passports”, but he also proposed a ban on employers “hiring or firing based on MRNA jabs.” 

And he backed proposals aimed at punishing companies that promote environmental, social, and corporate governance. 

Vaccine politics and a fight against corporations deemed too “woke” — the political equivalent of serving the GOP base a medium-rare tomahawk ribeye. 

In other campaign news:

Trump unplugged: Former President Donald Trump gave a wide-ranging interview during Monday’s episode of the Water Cooler radio show, criticizing Biden’s handling of classified information while absolving his own alleged indiscretions; refusing to take sides in the bid to lead the Republican National Committee; saying that “nobody has ever done more for right to life than Donald Trump”; and taking credit both for DeSantis’ political rise as well Kevin McCarthy’s speakership. 

Trump’s campaign also announced he’ll speak in South Carolina on Jan. 28 with GOP Gov. Henry McMaster and Sen. Lindsey Graham to “unveil his South Carolina leadership team.” 

A key(stone) primary: Pennsylvania state lawmakers are considering moving the state’s presidential primary into March, per the Philadelphia Inquirer. 

Sanders speaks: Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who has not ruled out another run for president, gave a speech at the Capitol Visitors Center on Tuesday night, in an event reminiscent of his 2020 campaign, per NBC News’ Gary Grumbach. Sanders said it is “long overdue for us to start paying attention to the oligarchy in the United States of America,” Grumbach reports.

No rush for Noem: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem did not directly address when she will decide whether she will run for the White House in 2024, telling CBS News, “I’m not convinced that I need to run for president. But I also believe that this country needs somebody to lead us that has a vision.” She said she does not feel rushed to make a decision.

Porter takes a side: Democratic Rep. Katie Porter is endorsing in the race for her House seat now that she’s running for Senate, backing state Sen. Dave Min, who represents much of the district in the state Senate, NBC News’ Sahil Kapur reports. Porter also backed Min when he ran for state Senate in 2020 even though they faced off in a bitter primary for Congress in 2018. Former Democratic Rep. Harley Rouda is also running for Porter’s seat

Judgment time: The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel breaks down the four candidates running for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, a statewide race that could have major implications for Wisconsin and provide clues about where the battleground state is headed in 2024.                                    

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The GOP campaign staffer who accused Republican activist Matt Schlapp of groping him is now suing Schlapp for allegations related to sexual battery and that Schlapp and allies aimed to discredit him. 

Young climate activist Greta Thunberg was detained while protesting a coal mine in Germany. 

The Washington Post reports on a push by dark money groups in Ohio to categorize natural gas as “green energy.”