Study Finds Growing Generation Gap in American Politics

(CN) – The generation gap in American politics is now wider than it has been in decades and still growing, as younger generations are increasingly embracing liberal values and Democratic candidates, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.

A majority of millennials (59 percent) surveyed say they affiliate with the Democratic party, and far more millennials than those in older generational cohorts favor a Democratic candidate in November’s midterm congressional elections, according to the Pew report.

Sixty-two percent of millennial voters say that if the election were held today, they would vote for the Democrat in their district, while only 29 percent of millennials say they would vote for a Republican.

Baby boomers and members of the “silent generation” — those born before 1945 — are more evenly divided in their voting preferences. Forty-five percent of boomers say they would vote for a Republican in the 2018 congressional election, and 51 percent of “silents” would vote for a Republican candidate.

First-year job approval ratings for President Donald Trump, compared with those for Barack Obama, differ markedly across generations. Only 27 percent of millennials and 36 percent of Gen Xers – those born between 1965 and 1980 — approve of Trump’s job performance. After Obama’s first year, 64 percent of millennials and 55 percent of Gen Xers approved of the way he was handling his job.

In contrast, there were only slight differences in respondents’ views of George W. Bush and Bill Clinton during their first year in office, according to the Pew report.

Divisions among generations have also grown considerably on many other issues just in the past few years, including views of racial discrimination and immigration.

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of those who believe racial discrimination is the main reason why “black people can’t get ahead these days” increased 14 percentage points among millennials (from 38 percent to 52 percent), and 11 points among Gen Xers (from 29 percent to 40 percent).

About as many silent generation respondents say racial discrimination is the main obstacle to black people’s progress today as they did in 2000 (28 percent now compared to 30 percent then).

Since 2015, there have been significant increases in the share of each generation saying that immigrants strengthen the country, with large majorities of millennials (79 percent) and Gen Xers (66 percent) saying that immigrants do more to strengthen than burden the United States. Fifty-six percent of boomers support immigrants, and only 47 percent of silents believe immigrants are good for the country.

In 2006, there were only modest generational differences on whether good diplomacy or military strength is the best way to ensure peace, but today, the generational gap on this issue is starkly different. Seventy-seven percent of millennials say that good diplomacy is the best way to ensure peace, while only 43 percent of silents say the same.

The Pew report, which examined the attitudes and political values of American adults based on data compiled in several surveys conducted in 2017 and 2018, found that there are some issues on which the four generations agree.

Support for marijuana legalization is growing across generational lines, according to the report, and there is also little generational variation in views on whether it is more important to protect the rights of Americans to own guns or more important to control gun ownership.

The four generations also agree that the federal government cannot be trusted. Trust in the federal government is about as low among the youngest generation as it is among the oldest and the two generations in between. Only 15 percent of millennials, 14 percent of baby boomers, 17 percent of Gen Xers and 18 percent of silents say they trust the government almost always or most of the time.

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