Essay Example on The age differences in political attitudes and voting Choices









The age differences in political attitudes and voting choices in the past three election cycles have been driven by three broad social and political trends The first is the growing racial and ethnic diversity of the country reflected in the rising percentage of non whites among younger age cohorts Non whites have been far more supportive of the Democratic Party in the last several decades Among members of the Silent generation today 79 are non Hispanic whites among the Millennial generation just 59 are non Hispanic whites A second factor is the political environment experienced by successive generations as they have come of age politically The relative popularity of the president and the two major political parties at the time an individual turns 18 has clear consequences for their voting preferences in subsequent elections A third factor is the broader societal changes that occur within a generation s life cycle These changes have a bigger impact on the political views of younger people who are still in the process of forming opinions Older people are more likely to reflect the values prevalent when they were growing up The greater acceptance of homosexuality and interracial dating among young people than older ones today are examples of this The contrasting race and ethnic compositions of the nation s older and younger adults reflect overall change in the U S where non Hispanic whites are a dwindling share of the population 

The youngest adults today Millennials born after 1980 are far less likely to be non Hispanic white than are the oldest Americans While 59 of Millennials are non Hispanic white each earlier generation is more likely to be non Hispanic white culminating with an 83 share among the oldest Americans the Greatest generation born before 1928 One in five Millennials is Hispanic 20 compared with only 6 among Greatest generation Americans now ages 84 and older and 7 among Silent generation adults ages 66 to 83 The same pattern of greater population share among younger generations is true for blacks although the contrast between young and old is not as dramatic The generational pattern is more complex when it comes to immigration The recent wave of immigration has contributed to the nation's growing racial and ethnic diversity but the youngest adults are not the most likely to be foreign born Generation X ages 31 to 46 contains a higher percentage of immigrants 22 than the Millennial generation 15 Millennials however stand out as being more likely than all but the oldest Americans to be U S born children of at least one immigrant parent 12 Among the Greatest generation many of whose parents came to the United States during the nation s immigration influx that began in the late 1800s 17 are U S born children of immigrants Millennials are far less likely to be married than earlier generations were when they were young Currently 23 of 18 to 30 year olds are married When Generation X was the same age in 1997 ages 18 to 30 32 were married The equivalent share for Baby Boomers in 1980 was 44 for the Silent generation in 1962 it was 59 For more on changes in marriage and the family see Pew Social Demographic Trends 

The Decline of Marriage and Rise of New Another major influence on the political character of successive generations is the political climate and events that people in each generation experienced as they reached adulthood and began to form their political identities The graphic below shows the relative partisan voting patterns of individuals who reached the age of 18 during the presidential terms of the past 13 presidents In some cases presidential terms are combined The label after the president s names shows the current age of the individuals who turned 18 during those presidential terms Each bar shows how much more Democratic or Republican that group voted compared with the average vote for each election The clearest pattern is that younger voters who turned 18 during the presidencies of Clinton Bush or Obama the younger members of Gen X and the Millennial generation have typically voted much more Democratic than the average In contrast voters who turned 18 during the Ford Carter Reagan and Bush Sr presidencies much of Generation X and younger Baby Boomers have voted somewhat more Republican than the average The picture is less clear for older generations Those who turned 18 during the Nixon administration a segment of older Baby Boomers have tended to be slightly more Democratic than average in their voting Those who came of age during the Eisenhower Kennedy and Johnson years mostly members of the Silent generation and the very oldest of the Baby Boomers have tended to be more Republican than the average especially in 2008 The Greatest generation is dwindling in numbers but at least until recently their Democratic tendencies were still evident Voters who turned 18 during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt consistently voted more Democratic than average

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