Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Once and Future Electorate

It's the changing of the generational guard. Ron Brownstein is out with a typically excellent analysis of this generational shift. Here's the basic story:
In 2018, the American electorate will cross a historic threshold that could reshape the political balance of power-or leave Democrats fuming in frustration at continued Republican dominance of Washington.
For the first time, millennials next year will pass baby boomers as the largest generation of Americans eligible to vote, according to the well-respected demographic forecasts from the States of Change project at the Center for American Progress [Note: I am co-director of this project, which also includes personnel from the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Brookings Institution.]…That transition will end a remarkable four decades of dominance for the baby boomers, who have been the largest generation of eligible voters since 1978, when they surpassed what's been popularly referred to as the Greatest Generation (or G.I. Generation) raised during the Depression…..
The long-term electoral shift from the baby boom and older generations toward millennials is unmistakable. The first millennials -- generally defined as the generation born from 1981 to 2000 -- entered the electorate in 2000. At that point, according to Census figures analyzed by States of Change, they represented just four percent of eligible voters; baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) constituted nearly 10 times as many eligible voters, at 39%. By 2016, the two generations had virtually converged, with Census figures showing that baby boomers represented just over 31 percent of eligible voters, and millennials just less than 31%. (In the process, millennials surged past Generation X, Americans born between 1965 and 1980, who comprised about one-fourth of eligible voters last year.)
The States of Change project, which studies the political and policy implications of demographic change, forecasts that will be the last time baby boomers outnumber millennials among eligible voters. In 2018, it anticipates, millennials (at just above 32% of eligible voters) will squeeze pass baby boomers (at slightly below 30%). The project expects that gap to widen to a nearly six-point advantage for millennials in 2020. Compounding the change, the first post-millennials -- young people born after 2000 -- will enter the electorate in the next few years.
In 2024 -- when it would not be unreasonable to expect the first millennial on a presidential ticket -- the States of Change project forecasts millennials and post-millennials will comprise nearly 45% of all eligible voters while baby boomers will shrink to just over one-fourth. (The forecast anticipates that Generation X will remain largely steady at about one-fourth of eligible voters over that period.)….
 Brownstein notes the political implications: 
Trump carried only a little more than one-third of voters under 30, no better than Romney's meager performance.
If anything, Trump appears to have lost ground among millennials since. Echoing other results, a mid-July ABC News/Washington Post poll put his job approval rating among them at just 27%, much lower than any older generation. Surveys by other media organizations have found that over two-thirds of millennials oppose the House-passed legislation to repeal the Affordable Care ActTrump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty, and his proposal to build a border wall with MexicoAn early June Quinnipiac University survey found that, by nearly two-to-one, millennials prefer Democrats over Republicans to control the House.
Of course, nothing is automatic about political changes that may follow from this generational shift. But it is nevertheless of considerable significance and will shape our politics for many years to come. This will especially be the case as Millennials attain higher ages and therefore start to have higher turnout (currently low Millennial turnout is overwhelmingly due to the generation's relative youth, not some mysterious apathy or lack of engagement). The States of Change project forecasts that Millennials  will surpass Boomers as a share of actual voters by 2024.

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