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More on Generation Y and American Politics

By Alan Abramowitz

An analysis of data from the 2004 national exit poll confirms the broad findings of Anna Greenberg’s report concerning "Generation Y" and adds a few additional insights. Consistent with Greenberg's analysis, the exit poll data show that the American electorate is becoming progressively less white--whites made up only 66 percent of voters under the age of 25 compared with 81 percent of voters 40 and older. Younger voters were more likely to describe themselves as liberal and much less opposed to gay marriage than their elders--43 percent of 18-24 year-olds favored allowing gays to legally marry compared with 22 percent of those 40 and older.

But social issues were not the only area on which younger voters differed from their elders. Younger voters also had a more negative opinion of the Bush Administration's economic policies. By a margin of 41 percent to 30 percent, 18-24 year olds viewed the Administration's policies as bad for the economy rather than good for the economy. In contrast, among those 40 and older, 45 percent felt the Administration's policies had been good for the economy and only 32 percent felt they had been bad for the economy.

Part of the reason for this may be that younger voters were much more likely than their elders to hold an activist view of the role of government. Given a choice between "government should do more to solve problems" and "government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals," 62 percent of 18-24 year olds chose "government should do more to solve social problems." So did 54 percent of 25-29 year olds and 55 percent of 30-39 year olds, but only 43 percent of those 40 and older.

Younger voters in 2004 were much more nonwhite, much more progressive, and much more critical of the Bush Administration's policies than their elders. Based on these results, the recent claim by Karl Rove that conservatism represents the wave of the future appears to be little more than wishful thinking.