The US election has produced more than its fair share of demographic slicing and dicing -- by race, by gender, by income and class, by region. Fair enough, especially given an outcome that confounded all the experts and polls.
But it always surprises me how little attention is paid to the age of the voters.
Going into the election, the prevailing wisdom was that the rising tide of Millennials was sure to carry the Democrats to victory. The Republicans were the party of grumpy old (white) men, and as they died off, the electorate would swing (some said permanently) to the Democrats.
2016 proved there was life -- and considerable political power -- in the Baby Boomers yet.
According to this interesting and provocative piece on Salon, Trump's win may have represented (statistically, if not qualitatively) the Boomers giving the finger to their grandkids just as they once did so to their parents. The numbers are certainly persuasive:
- Clinton had a 52-40 margin among voters age 45 or less, while Trump won the 45+ vote by 53-44. We'll have to wait until the final tabulations to know exactly how many people were in each age cohort and what the turnout rate was, but historically the "older" voters not only been more numerous but have had much higher rates of turnout, effectively accounting for about 6 out of every 10 ballots cast. Trump's margin among the 45+ would therefore be much more meaningful than Clinton's edge with the younger voters.
- Of particular interest are the results in states where Baby Boomers make up 25% of the voters, or more. Clinton won 14 of these states, accounting for 133 electoral votes, while Trump won 17 states, accounting for 176 electoral votes. The key swing states of Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan are all part of the Trump group, and given the closeness of his margins in these states, you could certainly argue that Boomers -- especially with their high turnouts -- made the difference.
We need not debate whether Trump's win was a Good Thing or a Bad Thing -- this blog tries to be resolutely apolitical -- but it seems that, once again, the Baby Boomers have shown the doubters that they still have the clout.