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The Age Gap: Evidence of a Realignment in U.S. Politics?
Unformatted Document Text:  The Age Gap: Evidence of a Realignment in U.S. Politics? Age and Vote Choice Age can be an important determinant in vote choice. Though not all elections in the United States demonstrate an age gap, age can be an important—if often overlooked—factor in who someone chooses to vote for and whether or not a person chooses to vote in the first place. Not only may there be a divergence between how different age groups vote in a particular election, but there exists the possibility of long-term generational effects on vote choice. The generation in which one comes of age politically can play an important role in structuring one’s political views their entire life. There is therefore a short-term age gap—the difference between how different age cohorts vote in a particular election—and a long-term age gap—the difference between how distinct generations vote over the course of their lives. The learning of specific orientations to politics and experiences with the political system are extremely important. 1 People develop values and assign priorities to their values that are shaped in a large part from the socio-economic conditions that they cultivate during their formative years from childhood to early adulthood. Due to the changing nature of society’s socio-economic conditions over time, people from different generations emphasize different political values. Changes in societal experiences may, therefore, alter citizens’ political orientations. The result is that different generations have distinct political leanings that they will tend to maintain over their lifetimes. Some generations will lean Republican and other Democratic depending upon the political climate in which they developed their formative political views. There are distinct partisan trends to age cohorts, with those who turned 20 during the Clinton, G.W. Bush, Nixon and Ford administrations tending to be disproportionately Democratic and those who turned 20 2

Authors: Fisher, Patrick.
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The Age Gap:
Evidence of a Realignment in U.S. Politics?
Age and Vote Choice
Age can be an important determinant in vote choice. Though not all elections in the
United States demonstrate an age gap, age can be an important—if often overlooked—factor in
who someone chooses to vote for and whether or not a person chooses to vote in the first place.
Not only may there be a divergence between how different age groups vote in a particular
election, but there exists the possibility of long-term generational effects on vote choice. The
generation in which one comes of age politically can play an important role in structuring one’s
political views their entire life. There is therefore a short-term age gap—the difference between
how different age cohorts vote in a particular election—and a long-term age gap—the difference
between how distinct generations vote over the course of their lives.
The learning of specific orientations to politics and experiences with the political system
are extremely important.
People develop values and assign priorities to their values that are
shaped in a large part from the socio-economic conditions that they cultivate during their
formative years from childhood to early adulthood. Due to the changing nature of society’s
socio-economic conditions over time, people from different generations emphasize different
political values. Changes in societal experiences may, therefore, alter citizens’ political
orientations. The result is that different generations have distinct political leanings that they will
tend to maintain over their lifetimes.
Some generations will lean Republican and other Democratic depending upon the
political climate in which they developed their formative political views. There are distinct
partisan trends to age cohorts, with those who turned 20 during the Clinton, G.W. Bush, Nixon
and Ford administrations tending to be disproportionately Democratic and those who turned 20
2


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