Gen Xers and Millennials out-voted older generations in 2016
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The number of Millennials and Generation Xers who cast votes was big. This was for the 2016 election. It was more than the number of Baby Boomers and Silent Generation voters. And it was more than the Greatest Generation voters. This is the first time this happened. That's according to Reid Wilson at The Hill.
That age shift in voting power will continue in future elections. That's according to a report put out by the Pew Research Center. It is likely to reshape the political landscape of the United States in coming decades.
Out of 137.5 million votes cast, 69.6 million came from voters under the age of 51. That's according to the study. Voters in the older generations cast 67.9 million votes.
The switchover is an inevitable part of demographics. Richard Fry is a labor economist at the Pew Research Center. He tells Wilson that Baby Boomers have been the most numerous voters since 1984.
Baby boomers are those born roughly between 1946 and 1964. They remained the largest block of voters in 2016 with 48.1 million voters. That represents 35 percent of the electorate. This number was down 2 million from a peak of 50.1 million Boomer voters. That was in 2004. As the oldest Boomers reach their 70s, their numbers will continue to decline.
Millennials are defined by the study as those between the ages of 18 and 35 in 2016. They will continue to grow as part of the electorate for two reasons.
First, immigration and naturalization will add to their numbers.
Second, as people age their voting participation tends to increase.
The Greatest or Silent Generation had a 70 percent voting participation rate last year. Boomers voted at 69 percent. Gen Xers voted at 63 percent, while Millennials voted at 49 percent.
The study reports that the shift in the electorate has political implications. For instance, 55 percent of Millennials identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. But only 33 percent identified themselves as leaning toward the GOP. That is the Republican party. Millennials tend to hold more liberal social views.
Danielle Kurtzleben works at NPR. She reports that this change in ideologies doesn't necessarily provide a clear political forecast. Other studies show that Millennials are more polarized than other generations. They identify more with extremely conservative or extremely liberal positions. More Millennials also self-identified as conservatives at high school graduation. That’s compared to both Baby Boomers and Generation Xers at the same age.
Kurtzleben points out that one of the most surprising aspects of the study. She notes that it took this long for younger voters to take center stage. There are currently 126 million eligible Gen X and Millennial voters versus 98 million Baby Boomer and older voters. That's according to Pew.
Eligible Gen X and Millennial voters were roughly equivalent to Baby Boomer and Silent Generation votes in 2012. While 70 percent of the older generations turned out that year, younger voters only turned out at 53.9 percent. They cast fewer total votes.