Tuesday, October 17, 2006
My G.O.P. generation, er, graduating class.
An article in the Times Week in Review section about political demographics jumped out at me in a rather personal way. It turns out that not only did I grow up in the most solidly Republican place in the U.S. (Utah County, Utah), I'm also part of the most Republican age cohort in the country.
David Kirkpatrick describes a study that shows that "voters typically develop a party preference based on the political atmosphere at the time they come of age and grow more attached to that party over the course of their lives." Hmm.
My senior year in high school encompassed the election of George H.W. Bush and the end of Ronald Reagan's presidency, the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the protests and crackdown in Tienanmen Square, which I remember vividly. The Berlin Wall fell later that year. Even though I attended my first Democratic Party caucus in Orem, Utah, in 1989 as a newly eligible voter and convert to liberalism, I was rather vividly aware that almost everyone I knew was a Republican. (There were four of us at that caucus. My parents were at the G.O.P. caucus that evening, held in the junior high school auditorium.) Can't say that I'm surprised that the late '80s looked like mighty good times to impressionable youngsters, thanks to the president I had described in an eighth-grade U.S. history research paper as one of the greatest presidents in American history. (I also worked diligently on a large charcoal illustration of Reagan in my art class that year.) Ah, the follies of youth.
But back to the newspaper article. There's good news for Democrats in this study:
"The longer Bush's approval ratings stay in the mid-30's, the more lost young Republicans there will be in the next generation," said Donald P. Green, a political scientist at Yale. But by the same rule, voters who came of age in the Reagan era are reliably Republican. Voters around the age of 36 are the only age group in which Republicans outnumber Democrats, according to 2006 surveys by the Pew Research Center. And it will be decades before they pass through the populace, "like an elephant through a boa constrictor," Professor Hansen said.
Let's see: I turn 36 next month. (Be sure to take a look at the accompanying graph.) But it's not much of an elephant that's passing through that boa constrictor: Although more 35- and 36-year-old Americans identify with the Republican Party, aren't those of us born between 1969 and 1971 from the low point of the Generation X baby slump? My cohort may idolize Reagan, but I can't imagine that two years worth of gung-ho Gen X Republicanism really constitutes a big deal — especially when you check out how strongly twentysomethings today identify with the Democratic Party. There's a whole lot more of those kids of the baby boomers than there are members of the Class of '88 or '89.
Find yourself on that chart. Do you see anything there that helps explain part of your own coming into political consciousness?
("Voters' allegiances, ripe for the picking," David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times 10.15.06, reg req'd; "Today's voters: How generation influences party," Bill Marsh, New York Times 10.15.06, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 17 October 2006 at 10:14 PM