Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Boomers and Change: the 2008 Presidential Vote

The United States made history yesterday in electing the first African-American, Barack Obama, to the presidency. Based upon the mythology of the Baby Boomer generation -- the generation that grew up during the Civil Rights era and reshaped cultural history -- one might have expected Boomers to lead the way in voting for "change."

But they didn't. CNN exit polls showed that Boomers split their votes evenly between Obama and John McCain: 50 percent to 49 percent. The GenY (Millennial) generation voted most lopsidedly for Obama, by a two to one margin, while GenX favored him by a smaller margin. The Silent Generation was the only age cohort that went for McCain, who is, after all, one of them.

A superficial conclusion based upon the CNN poll results would suggest that the proclivity for voting for Obama varied in direct proportion to the age of the voter. But that would obscure the reality that ethnicity was the driving factor. The reason the GenY generation voted so overwhelmingly for Obama is that GenY is more ethnically diverse (as in, non-white) than older generations.

Blacks voted almost unanimously for Obama across all age brackets, with little variation (between 94 and 96 percent). Latinos skewed toward Obama by large margins, though not as lopsidedly as for blacks. Same with Asians. Among whites, only the GenYs favored Obama -- 54 percent to 44 percent. All other white age cohorts favored McCain by the same margin of three to two.

Here at the Boomer Project, we look at social, economic and political phenomena through a generational lens, and it gives us something new and fresh to say when we can demonstrate that an individual's generational location is a significant determinant of behavior. But we can't honestly do that with this election. Children generally voted like their parents. The differences between the GenX, Boomers and Silent Generation within ethnic categories were not significant. Adjusted for ethnicity, GenY leans more blue than red, but by a smaller margin than commonly imagined.

In reality, the Democratic leanings of the "youth" vote reflects the changing ethnic composition of the United States and the shift from a predominantly white nation to a multi-ethnic nation.

(For details on voting by age and ethnicity, click here and scroll down to "Vote by Age and Race.")

1 comment:

Groveton said...

Here's a homework assignment - how did those same age / voting patterns look in 1960 when JFK was elected?

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