Harry J. Enten SAYS the political tendencies of most American voters don’t change much from what they were when their generation came of age:
Republicans have a problem with young people 18-29. Democrats have a problem with seniors over 65. The story taken from this dichotomy is popular and simple enough: Republicans are the party of crusty old folks who are going to die, and Democrats are the party of the youth, who will lead a continued resurgence into office.
I’m not so sure about this story; the generational math is different than you might think.
One of my favorite bits of trivia points to the bigger picture: “From which age group did Bill Clinton win the highest percentage of votes in 1992?”
Indeed, if you came of age during the Franklin D Roosevelt administration, you are more Democratic than the nation as a whole. If you could first vote during the administrations of Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush, you’re more Republican. Turn 18 while George W. Bush or Barack Obama held the White House and, again, you’re more Democratic. That’s right: the 18-29 year-olds of today are about as Democratic as their oldest grandparents and great-grandparents.
These voting patterns tend to stay relatively consistent within a group, even as people age. Contrary to popular belief, people don’t become any more conservative with every birthday, and college doesn’t necessarily make people more liberal.