Political Gulf Deepens Between Old, Young
Younger Americans continue to identify with the Democratic Party and liberal attitudes about key issues such as the role of federal government — a wide departure from the views of many older voters, according to a new research released Monday.
Based on 2012 presidential exit polls, voters under 30 were the only age group of which a majority felt the government should do more to solve problems, according to new analysis from the Pew Research Center.
By wide margins, younger voters cast their ballots for President Barack Obama on Nov. 6. This year, 60 percent of those under 30 backed Obama, compared with just 48 percent of those 30 and older.
What is less known, however, is the emerging divide between younger and older Americans on attitudes about the nation's economy and their own financial prospects.
According to Pew, the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012 — with both featuring Obama on the ballot — have had the widest gaps in voting between younger and older voters of any election since 1972.
Young and Optimistic?
Not only were young voters more likely than older peers to say the government should do more to solve problems, they were far more approving of Obama's signature health care law.
About 53 percent said it should be expanded or left as it is, according to Pew. That compares with 42 percent of 30 and older, who favored retaining the health-care law or expanding it.
Younger voters' desire for a larger government role in the economy comes as members of this demographic are being ravaged by the prolonged economic slump.
The unemployment rate for 18- to 34-year-olds for October was 10.8 percent, higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This group, referred to as millennials, is accumulating personal debt that spans from unpaid student loans and credit card bills to medical expenses, according to research from Demos released last year.
But joblessness and other economic pressures aren't necessarily dampening young voters attitudes about their future prospects.
"People in this age range have arguably been hit hardest by this economic downturn, but it doesn't seem to have led to a real loss of optimism," said Michael Dimock with Pew. Unlike older Americans, "they're not particularly dire in their view of the country's economic stature," he said.
Dimock said the analysis reflects some of optimism often associated with younger voters, who may not compare their economic prospects to their elders. Normally, those thoughts begin to percolate with the onset of middle age.
Based on the recent Pew analysis, "there is a certain amount of resilience to their outlook," Dimock said.