Political News for Senior Citizens


Political News for Seniors

Boomers, older voters may no longer dominate elections

Analysis by Pew Research suggests senior citizens will pass the torch to Gen X and Millennials

political campaign hatsAugust 30, 2016 - Donald Trump may be the last chance for the old folks of America. His strongest support seems to be among older, less educated, white people. A new analysis by Pew Research, however, indicates the baby boomers and the generations even older may have seen the last election where they were the dominant force at the polls.

Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew, writes that Baby Boomers and older generations have cast the vast majority of votes in every presidential election since 1980. In the 2012 elections they cast and amazing 56% of the votes, based on surveys asking people if they voted. They dominated earlier elections even more.

His analysis appears in the Pew section FactTank: "This may be the last presidential election dominated by Boomers and prior generations."

“But the ranks of Millennial and Generation X eligible voters have been growing, thanks to the aging-in of Millennials and naturalizations among foreign-born adults,” Fry writes. “These generations matched Boomers and previous generations as a share of eligible voters in 2012 and are now estimated to outnumber them.”

As of July, an estimated 126 million Millennial and Gen X adults were eligible to vote (56% of eligible voters), compared with only 98 million Boomers and other adults from prior generations, or 44% of the voting-eligible population.

Graphic by Pew Research Center

It is not a done deal, however, notes Fry. “Although the electorate is increasingly comprised of younger generations, this does not imply that the electorate as a whole is getting younger.”

What still matters is who actually votes in early voting or on Election Day. The older voters have proven their dedication to casting a ballot but recent elections indicated the Millennials and Gen X voters are pretty motivated, too.

“Whether Millennial and Gen X adults outnumber Boomers and other generations in November will hinge on voter turnout,” Fry says.

The senior citizens – Baby Boomers, Silent and Greatest generations – have been voting consistently to produce a turnout right around 70%.

The problem notes, Fry, is that the base number is shrinking, and the Millennials and Xers can cast more votes with a lower percentage turnout.

A 70% turnout by the senior citizens would produce 68.6 million votes. Millennials and Gen X could match that number with a turnout of 54.5%.

Fry notes, “This level of turnout among the two younger generations seems plausible based on past elections.”

“In the 2012 election, 53.9% of Millennial and Gen X eligible voters turned out. Turnout among these generations was even higher in 2004 (54.2%) and higher still in 2008 (56.6%).

“Historical patterns of voter turnout by generation also suggest the likely end of dominance by Boomers and prior generations. In general, as a generation ages, turnout rises, hits a peak, and then declines.”

He points out:

 >> The Greatest Generation, turnout crested in the 1984 election at 76% before declining.

 >> Turnout among eligible voters in the Silent Generation peaked at 76% in the 1992 election.

 >>Millennial and Gen X generations are likely still on the upswing in terms of their turnout rates, so it is a reasonable guess that at least 54.5% will vote, and perhaps more.

He concludes, “We won’t know until after November if Boomers and their elders will pass the torch to Gen X and Millennials as a share of voters, but all the available data suggest that the 2016 election will mark the beginning of a new era for U.S. presidential elections.”

The generations defined


Note: Richard Fry is a senior researcher focusing on economics and education at Pew Research Center.

       Posts  Email  Bio  @r_fry1

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