It always seemed to me that by the time Baby Boomers came of age, they would be a political force to be reckoned with, a voting bloc for sweeping change. These are the people who went to San Francisco with flowers in their hair; who sat down en masse and refused to buy what the Establishment was selling; and who turned the nation against the unwinnable war in Vietnam. They probably were never a statistical majority, but they sure as hell were the most vocal and the most visible.
Instead, according to a report in the May 2012 edition of the AARP Bulletin, the surviving group has become an ideological Bell Curve, that iconic representation of a “normal distribution” our teachers once either terrorized us with or saved our bacon with, depending on which end of the curve you tended to fall.
Technically, I fall into what AARP calls the “Silent Generation” those of us ages 66-83 who preceded in birth the true boomers. But at 67, I consider myself on the cusp and therefore, an honorary member of the boomers, who fall between the ages of 47 and 65. And I most certainly shared their characteristics, as described in the AARP article--
- Older boomers more likely to support Democratic issues than younger boomers
- Frustrated with the government
- Especially concerned with their own personal financial future
- Almost half say life has gotten worse in the U.S. since the 1960s.
-- in contrast to those of the Silent Generation--
- Has consistently had conservative views on government and society
- Once part of one of the most Democratic generations, now the most Republican
- Favored McCain over Obama in ‘08
- Likely to favor Republicans on most issues, except Social Security
The Silent Generation (66-83) represents 17% of American voters, versus 37% for the Boomers(47-65) .
But something strange happened on the way to Social Security, which turns out to be not so strange when I consider my own political evolution. With the predictable shifting of the sands of time and the gradual assimilation of the counter-culture into the workaday society, the curve has seriously flattened, leaving any chance of voting as a bloc nearly out of the question. Many more categories are required to categorize the 50+ voters than just Democrat and Republican. And with this group’s almost 70% turnout rate at the polls, there will be plenty of them, but with what effect?
To illustrate the point, I have reproduced the chart on the right-hand side of the page of the article, based on data from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press:
Staunch conservatives: highly engaged tea party supporters
All adults: 9% Ages 50-64: 11% Age 65+: 15%
Main Street Republicans: conservative on most issues
All adults: 12% Ages 50-64: 11% Age 65+: 14%
Libertarians: free market, small government seculars
All adults: 9% Ages 50-64: 9% Age 65+: 10%
Disaffecteds: downscale and cynical
All adults: 11% Ages 50-64: 15% Age 65+: 11%
Postmoderns: moderates, liberal on social issues
All adults: 13% Ages 50-64: 11% Age 65+: 8%
New coalition Democrats: upbeat, majority-minority
All adults: 10% Ages 50-64: 9% Age 65+: 11%
Hard-pressed Democrats: religious, financially struggling
All adults: 13% Ages 50-64: 16% Age 65+: 15%
Solid liberals: across-the-board liberal positions
All adults: 14% Ages 50-64: 14% Age 65+: 13%
Bystanders: young and/or politically disengaged
All adults: 11% Ages 50-64: 6% Age 65+: 3%
While people age 50 and above are 44% of the total number of eligible American voters, their near-70% turnout rate should be enough to warrant significant attention from both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. The challenge for them is to try to figure out how to address such a surprisingly diverse constituency.
As for any gender differences, the AARP article cites over-50 men’s top issues as jobs, the deficit, government competence and health care costs. For women, the top issues are health care costs, jobs, Social Security/Medicare and government competence. These stats were pulled from the AARP Bulletin’s 2012 Election Issues Survey. While the order of importance is slightly different by gender, the issues are virtually identical.
It will be interesting to watch the two Presidential candidates handle these challenges; that is, if they even recognize them.
Source: AARP Bulletin, May 2012, Vol.53 No.4