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« The Apprentice . . . without that jackass Trump | Main | Movie of My Week: "Red Cliff" (2008) »
12:43PM

The political/generational impact of the Great Recession

Check out this bit from today's NYT:

In the four years since President Obama swept into office in large part with the support of a vast army of young people, a new corps of men and women have come of voting age with views shaped largely by the recession. And unlike their counterparts in the millennial generation who showed high levels of enthusiasm for Mr. Obama at this point in 2008, the nation’s first-time voters are less enthusiastic about him, are significantly more likely to identify as conservative and cite a growing lack of faith in government in general, according to interviews, experts and recent polls.

Polls show that Americans under 30 are still inclined to support Mr. Obama by a wide margin. But the president may face a particular challenge among voters ages 18 to 24. In that group, his lead over Mitt Romney — 12 points — is about half of what it is among 25- to 29-year-olds, according to an online survey this spring by the Harvard Institute of Politics.  And among whites in the younger group, Mr. Obama’s lead vanishes altogether.

Among all 18- to 29-year-olds, the poll found a high level of undecided voters; 30 percent indicated that they had not yet made up their mind. And turnout among this group is expected to be significantly lower than for older voters.

“The concern for Obama, and the opportunity for Romney, is in the 18- to 24-year-olds who don’t have the historical or direct connection to the campaign or the movement of four years ago,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at the Harvard Institute of Politics. “We’re also seeing that these younger members of this generation are beginning to show some more conservative traits. It doesn’t mean they are Republican. It means Republicans have an opportunity.”

There is the strong evidence that a minority-white/majority non-white America favors the Dems long term, but history also says that an extended "tough time" favors the GOP, especially when you remember that the average voters behaves - over the course of his or her life - much like a car-buyer, meaning your first "purchase" typically creates a brand loyalty that is highly consistent over your life (meaning, it has an imprinting function that is profound).  Simple example:  If the first car you buy is a Ford, you will  - on average - buy more Fords over the rest of your life than any other car - hands down.  Same is true in voting for president.

Point being, while the demographic shift will still favor Dems (as currently defined) against Republicans (as currently configured), this long recession will have its own profound imprinting impact as well.  I see it in kids through the prism of my 20-year-old daughter (now in college).  They face a hostile labor market not unlike the one my generation faced in the early 1980s.  Between that point and 2008, college-age cohorts faced a fantastically (in historical terms) consistent positive labor environment. But my impression is that those days are gone - probably for good given the competitive landscape now created by a maturing globalization.

So, again, you have your demographic trends and you have your economic realities trend.  Both are profound influencers. I'm just saying nothing is carved in stone in terms of long-run trends, especially as I expect both parties to be significantly reshaped by these dueling trends over the next decade or so.

Still, I see little in any of these reports that convinces me Obama will fall in the Fall.

References (3)

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Reader Comments (2)

As a 25 year old male who voted for Obama in 08, I switched my party affiliation this year to Republican

Not so much because of anything Obama did, still leaning in his direction until Romney can convince me otherwise... but because of a general revulsion of the Occupy movement which, at least in my age group, takes on a distinctly far-left tinge (as opposed to say, the Tea Party group, which is more Right, yet no less nutty), something I want to distance myself from


Talking to my peers about politics, I don't know how much a recession will help the GOP long term. My peers are more than happy to ascribe the continued economic problems to GOP stubbornness until the cows come home. The question isn't whether or not they are right to do so, but what, if anything, could sway them from that position. The dialog ranges from "Obama deserves another shot" to "We need to become Norway, immediately"

But anyway... the economy is truly awful right now for that age group. I am one of the lucky ones, and haven't had those woes, but I know many who do have those troubles, and I see bankruptcy and massacred credit in their near futures... with 5 (and sometimes 6) figure student loan balances and absolutely zero shot at a salary... it's going to be something to see when these guys hit 30.

July 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterM. Ryan

My nieces and nephews are graduating and heading into "careers" in Acting, Music Production and Film. A puzzling development considering that they came from a solid Mid western, Catholic background. We, older members of the clan did discover Rock & Roll but we went out and got "Jobs." Then we got married. I don't know what to think of the kids in the family. We all wish them the best and hope that they don't end up living in the basement at their parent's house.

By the way, I bought Fords and kept back alley garage guys in business for years. Then I discovered Japanese cars. Never went back.

July 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTed O'Connor

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