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:
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…..
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.
Brownstein notes the political implications:
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.)….
Trump carried only a little more than
one-third of voters under 30, no better than Romney's meager performance.
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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