The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election

Growing racial and ethnic diversity, which is concentrated among younger generations, has benefited Democrats. Race and ethnicity are strongly associated with views about government, and in no small part account for some of the greater liberalism of the younger age groups and greater conservatism of older groups.

In the last four national elections, generational differences have mattered more than they have in decades. According to the exit polls, younger people have voted substantially more Democratic than other age groups in each election since 2004, while older voters have cast more ballots for Republican candidates in each election since 2006.

The latest national polls suggest this pattern may well continue in 2012. Millennial generation voters are inclined to back Barack Obama for reelection by a wide margin in a matchup against Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate who has run the strongest against Obama in many polls. By contrast, Silent generation voters are solidly behind Romney.

In between the youngest and the oldest voters are the Baby Boom generation and Generation X. Both groups are less supportive of Obama than they were in 2008 and are now on the fence with respect to a second term for the president.

One of the largest factors driving the current generation gap is the arrival of diverse and Democratic-oriented Millennials. Shaped by the politics and conditions of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, this group holds liberal attitudes on most social and governmental issues.


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