Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Analysis of Generations in the 2016 Election: Policy and Issue Differences Among the Generations

As a second post to yesterday's analysis on 2016's election and generations, the policy differences and issue stances of the four cohorts--Millennials (born after 1981), Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980), Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1965), and the Greatest Generation (born before 1945)--show key differences among the generational cohorts, much like the partisan and ideological perspectives.

First, much was made about the economic situation of the country. In the ANES 2016 data, a "retrospective" economic question was asked: has the economy gotten better, worse, or about the same since 2008?


Only the Greatest generation had a plurality that rated the economy worse than eight years ago, while Millennials had the strongest percentage of responses that the economy was better than when Obama took office.

With the controversy in North Carolina over House Bill 2, the state law that denied local governments the ability to enact non-discrimination ordinances to include transgender citizens, ANES asked a question regarding transgender citizens and policies regarding public facilities (bathrooms).


Only Millennials had a majority respond that transgender persons should be allowed to use the bathrooms of their identified gender, with both Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation having at least a ten-point difference to the majority of using the bathroom of the gender they were born with.

On another issue involving the LGBTQ community, following the U.S. Supreme Court's sanctioning of same-sex marriages, the issue of adoption by gay couples has become another point of policy controversy.


While solid majorities in all four generational cohorts believed that gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to adopt, Millennials held the highest percentage of any cohort, while Greatest was the lowest. This may be related to the strength of religious faith among older voters, as documented by church attendance in another ANES question:


Pluralities of Millennials and Gen Xers reported attending church only a few times a year, while a solid majority of Greatest Generation reported attending church every week.

As one of the most controversial issues of the 2016 campaign, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) generated a great deal of interest on both sides. But when asked about the effect of the ACA on health care costs, all four generations held similar beliefs.


All four generational cohorts held majority opinions that the ACA increased health care costs, but Millennials were over ten points lower than older voters in holding that belief.

With some states legalizing the sale and regulation of marijuana, the ANES asked whether marijuana should be legalized:


With a majority of Millennials favoring while those of the Greatest Generation opposing legalization of marijuana, pluralities of both Gen Xers and Baby Boomers favored the policy.

Another controversial proposal, espoused by Republican Donald Trump, was to build a wall between the United States and Mexico.


While pluralities of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers opposed the policy and a majority of Millennials were opposed, a slight plurality of Greatest Generation favored Trump's policy.

Another issue raised by the Republican presidential candidate was to close off the United States to Syrian refugees.


While no generational cohort supported the policy of allowing Syrian refugees into the nation, Millennials were the closest in their support-to-opposition, while older respondents were solidly oppose to the policy of allowing refugees from Syria into the U.S.

For many Republicans, the vacant Supreme Court seat of the late Antonin Scalia, and Obama's selection of Merrick Garland to fill the seat, was an important issue in the election.


With the strong majority support from Millennials for a Senate vote on Garland as the nominee, along with majority support from Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, it was only the Greatest Generation that was opposed to giving a vote to Garland and holding the seat open for the future president.

Finally, one of the interesting divisions between the Greatest Generation and the other generations was over government reducing income inequality:


With Millennials having the greatest support for favoring government reducing income inequality, the Greatest Generation had a bare plurality oppose such a policy.

Finally, I'll end with some issues regarding the various perceptions in the 2016 election.

First, the notion that the "world is changing and we should adjust":


Not surprising, those under the age of 50ish were more likely to either strongly or somewhat agree that change is warranted, while those over 50 disagreed with the statement.

When asked if "newer lifestyles are breaking down society," each generation had at least a plurality opinion:


But interesting, it was Baby Boomers (children of the 1960s) and the Greatest Generation that held majority views agreeing with the breaking of society by newer lifestyles.

All four generational cohorts agreed (strongly or somewhat) with the statement that the "country needs a strong leader to take us back to the true path," but again, the divisions between the younger generation and the older generation were most pronounced.


Finally, the belief in government's role (either that less government is better or that government should be doing more) has a significant divide between the youngest and oldest generation:


Similar to the partisan and ideological findings among the generations in the previous post, policy and perspectives also seem to create a sense of generational divide. As noted in the previous posting, Baby Boomers and Millennials are the two largest cohorts in last year's electorate, and the likelihood is that Millennials will take the plurality in the next presidential election. Whether their policy views will shape or determine future presidential candidates and party platforms is up for debate, but the sense of a shift in policy and perspectives coming should not surprise anyone paying attention in this hyper-polarized political environment of American politics.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Analysis of Generations in the 2016 Election: Partisanship, Ideology, Vote Choice, and Feelings Toward Clinton & Trump

In exploring more about the "generational shift" occurring in North Carolina politics (particularly from a voter registration and turnout approach--see previous posts on this blog site), I wanted to take a larger view of the differences between Millennials (those born after 1980) and Baby Boomers (those born between 1945 and 1965), with Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) and the Greatest Generation (born before 1945).

One invaluable data resource to explore these differences is the 2016 American National Election Study, a massive survey of over 4,000 individuals who are contacted both before and after a presidential election. This survey asks a battery of questions, not just on politics but a variety of policy questions and a range of issues.

For those who would like to use the 2016 ANES data, the folks at UC-Berkeley have developed a website that allows users to put in various questions (by first finding the variable) from the survey and run cross-tabs to analyze the survey pool (it's a little tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, you can spend a great deal of time running numbers).

For example, if you wanted to "recode" the "age" question of the respondents into generations (in 2016, Millennials were 18-35; Generation Xers were 36-51; Baby Boomers were 52-71; and Greatest Generation members were 72-90), you would find that the 2016 pool ("electorate") broke down into the following generational cohorts:


Using this division of the 2016 ANES data, I began to run cross-tabs of the data by different characteristics and policy questions asked in the survey. For example, what was the party self-identification by the generations?


Democrats (those who identify as strong, not strong, and leaners combined) are a plurality of both Millennials and Gen Xers, while Baby Boomers have a nearly even divide between the two political parties. Members of the Greatest Generation have a plurality of Republican self-identification. Barely a third of Millennials self-identify with the GOP, while nearly 18 percent of the youngest generation don't identify with either political party.

Along with partisan identification is ideological self-identification; the first analysis that I ran included the response for "haven't thought about it" to reflect possible uncertainty of one's ideological perspective (conservative, liberal, moderate, or haven't thought about it):


Not surprising, Millennials have the largest portion within a cohort that "haven't thought about it," while the oldest voters (Baby Boomers and the Greatest) have the lowest portions within their cohorts of "undecided" ideological identification.

Dropping the "undecideds/unknowns" out of the analysis paints an ideological picture of the four cohorts:


Conservatives claim a plurality of Baby Boomers (43.8 percent) and a majority of the Greatest Generation (50.9 percent), while Gen Xers are nearly evenly divided amongst the three categories. A plurality of Millennials, as documented in other surveys such as the Pew Research Center, are liberal in their ideology. But will Millennials potentially grow "more conservative" to match their older cohorts when they reach 50 years and older?

To compare, I went to the 2004 ANES Survey and, adjusting for the age categories, ran a comparison of ideological self-identification between the two election surveys.


While the oldest Millennials in 2004 were only 23 years old, as compared to 35 years old in 2016, there was an increase of Millennials who identified as conservative over the twelve year period, at the expense of those who identified as "moderate;" liberal identification remained fairly stable. Among the Greatest Generation, however, a substantial increase (10 points) in conservative ideological self-identification occurred between 2004 and 2016, again at the expense of those who identified as moderates.

Having looked at both the partisan and ideological self-identification of the generations, I looked at the presidential vote choice among the cohorts:


The almost mirror images among Millennials and Greatest generation cohorts is pretty striking: while nearly 55 percent of Millennials cast their ballots for Clinton, nearly 58 percent of the Greatest Generation went for Trump. While there was a 17 percentage vote gap between Greatest Generation voters for the two candidates, the 20 percentage vote gap among Millennials is significant, taking into account the likelihood that they are more liberal and more Democratic in identification.

The greatest vote share among the cohorts going to third-party candidates was, not surprisingly, among Millennial voters.

Much was made about the unpopularity of both major party's candidates. In looking at two questions about the presidential candidates and the respondents' feelings about the candidates, another generational divide emerged: first, as demonstrated in the combined "feelings thermometers" when asked about both Clinton and Trump.

A feeling thermometer asks a respondent, on a scale of zero to 100 (zero being ice cold, 100 being burning hot), to state a number as to how they felt about each candidate. In classifying "warmth" as being any response over 55 and "cool" as being any response under 45, I grouped each generation's responses to both candidates into the following "warmth" and "coolness" towards both Trump and Clinton.


While all four groups saw consistently similar responses to Clinton, typically at 50 to 53 "warmth" and 40 "cool," it was the generational differences in responding to Trump that stands out: while Millennials were barely more "warm" than "cool" to the GOP candidate, the 30 to 40 percentage gap among warmth and coolness by Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation is striking.

Another set of questions asked about whether the respondents were "never proud of" either candidate or were "always disgusted by" a candidate.



While all generations were fairly consistent in their responses to the questions regarding "never proud of" or "always disgusted by" Hillary Clinton, the generational differences among the responses to Donald Trump shows that Millennials were the generation showing the greatest level of loss of pride in Trump and "always disgusted by" the GOP candidate.

But even with this level of disgust by Millennials, it clearly did not translate into enthusiasm in their voting:


Millennials had the lowest level of "strong preference" for their presidential candidate among the cohorts, while the Greatest Generation had three-fourths of respondents express strong preference for their respective candidate.

One of the more interesting findings regarding voting was a question posed in the ANES regarding the election integrity: does the respondent believe that the votes are being counted fairly?

For all of the talk about vote and ballot integrity, it was Millennials who had the lowest outlook on whether their vote would be counted fairly:


To wrap up, much of this ANES data is in line with another major study of the generational divide in American politics from the Pew Research Center. While older voters have higher participation rates than younger voters, and thus dominate the electoral fortunes, the tectonic shift that is currently underway in the country will reshape the political landscape.

In the next blog post, I'll be looking at this generational divide through the lenses of various policy issues and concerns, such as the state of the 2016 economy, transgender bathroom policy, the ACA's (Obamacare's) effect on health care costs, marijuana policy, and the role of government.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Half way through 2017, a look at NC's voter pool

As we enter the dog days of summer, I thought it would be good to take a look at the latest figures for the North Carolina registered voter pool at the half-way point of 2017, with data courtesy of the NC State Board of Elections.

First, the total pool of active and inactive voters stands at 6.7 million voters, down 2.5 percent from the 6.9 million recorded on January 1.

In the state, registering voters selected one of four party designations: Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, or unaffiliated. Over the recent past, the fastest growing group in terms of party registration has been the "unaffiliated" (more on this later). To date, the voter pool divides into the following party registration:

North Carolina Voter Registration Pool as of 7-15-17
Registered Democrats have dropped below 40 percent of the total, while registered Republicans and unaffiliated voters are nearly equal (a difference of 13,335 voters separate Republicans and unaffiliated).

Next, a look at the racial composition of the state and the respective party categories:

Party Registration by Race for 7-15-17 North Carolina Voter Pool

White voters have slipped below 70 percent in the overall pool, while minority races (black/African-American, Asian, American Indian, multi-racial, other races, and unknown) are over 30 percent of the pool. Within the different party registrations, Democrats are now a majority-minority party, with only 45 percent white while Black/African-American voters are 46 percent. Registered unaffiliated voters are three-fourths white, while registered Republicans are 92 percent white.

Another key characteristic that I have been watching has been the "regionalism" of the state, divided into urban, suburban, and rural counties (based on the U.S. Office of Management & Budget's classification).

Party Registration by Region for 7-15-17 NC Voter Pool

The urban influence in North Carolina is striking, in that 54 percent of the 6.7 million voters live in an "urban" county, with another 22 percent in an adjacent suburban county. Rural counties are now less than a quarter of the state's voter pool, and likely to continue to shrink.

Not surprising, urban counties have a plurality of voters registered Democrats, while registered unaffiliated voters are now second, followed by registered Republicans. Republicans make up the plurality of suburban voters, with Democrats and unaffiliated voters tied, while rural counties have a traditional Democratic dominance (but that is not to be read as Democratic "voters", since these counties tend to be strong Republican areas, but not as strong as suburban counties).

One interesting dynamic has been the rise of the unaffiliated (not to be read necessarily as "independent") voter in North Carolina. In taking the 6.7 million voters and breaking them into their registration year, one sees the rise of the unaffiliated in stark terms, with the decline of both the two majority parties.

Year of Registration Since 1980 by Party Registration in North Carolina
Of the current voters who registered in 1980, 48 percent of them registered as Democrats, 39 percent as Republicans, and only 13 percent as unaffiliated. Over time, however, the steady march upwards of current voters registered with neither political party has been the hallmark of North Carolina, with the key exceptions in certain election years (such as 1988, 1990, 2004, 2008, 2010, and 2012). This year, so far, Democrats are bucking their historic trends in odd years with a rise in their registration, most likely due to national influences.

In looking at these yearly registration trends in urban, suburban and rural counties, one can see distinct differences in how the parties and unaffiliated have seen their numbers rise and fall.

Yearly Registration in NC Urban Counties Since 1980

Yearly Registration in NC Suburban Counties Since 1980

Yearly Registration in NC Rural Counties Since 1980

Another key characteristic of the registered voter pool in the Old North State has been based on generational cohorts. Using the birth years of each voter, one can classify them into cohorts: Greatest/Silent generation (born before 1945); Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1965); Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980); and Millennials (born in 1981 and after).

In classifying each generational cohort, you can first look at the party registrations:

Party Registration by Generation for 7-15-17 NC Voter Pool
The notable trend has been Millennials, who are significantly more "unaffiliated" than any other cohort. Generation Xers tend to be the "bridge" generation between Millennials and Baby Boomers, but in the next few months, it is likely that Baby Boomers and Millennials will be equal percentages of the voter pool: and then Millennials will begin to take over as the largest pool of NC registered voters.

In looking at each generation, registered NC Millennial voters are the most racially diverse.

Generation by Race for 7-15-17 NC Voter Pool

And where do these generations regionally reside?

Generation by Region for 7-15-17 NC Voter Pool

Taking the yearly registration numbers of the current voter registration pool, one can do similar analysis by the generation cohorts as they entered the voter pool. For example, Baby Boomers began to register in the mid-1960s, and reflected the end of the New Deal coalition by 1984 and the Reagan realignment:

Registration Year Percentages by Party Registration Among NC Baby Boomers
For Generation Xers, while their early members were registered more Democratic, the quick rise of the unaffiliated voter in this generation shows the potential dismay and lack of partisan affiliation (at least in registration) with either party:

Registration Year Percentages by Party Registration Among NC Generations Xers
Millennials, however, have entered the voter pool clearly divided between the two parties and unaffiliated, with Republicans unable in recent years to hit a quarter of new Millennials voters registering.

Registration Year Percentages by Party Registration Among NC Millennials

While the key take-away is the rise of both urban and unaffiliated voters, this year's increase in registered Democrats (so far) is probably due to the national environment and motivation and interest by Democrats against the Trump and Republican unified government in Washington. Watching this trend through the remainder of 2017 and into 2018 may give an indication of energy and enthusiasm heading into the 2018 mid-term elections for a continued battleground state like North Carolina.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Final NC Voting Data Has Been Released

Well, I know it's been a while since I've posted, but I needed some time away (and time to get caught up on my other jobs), but now that the North Carolina State Board of Elections has released some final data on voters, we can truly begin to dissect the 2016 electorate in the Old North State.

Much speculation was made leading up to the November 8 general election about what this year's NC electorate would look like, and with the dynamics of early voting presenting a whole new dynamic in the state, it was anyone's guess what the final picture would look like in the state.

In the end, another record number of ballots were cast in North Carolina, ending at over 4.7 million. Donald Trump expanded the margin of victory that Romney secured four years prior: in 2012, the Republican margin of victory was 2 percentage points, but in 2016, Trump expanded it to 3.9 percentage point difference with Hillary Clinton.

I have another blog post awaiting posting at WFAE's The Party Line blog, but this will review some of the basic numbers and trends in the state's electorate within the past four presidential elections.

In terms of the state's electorate based on party registration, as the growth in 'unaffiliated' party registration has been the significant trend in the state, so to has been the trend in the percentage of the electorate from unaffiliated voters.


Both registered partisans have seen their percentages of the NC electorate drop since 2004, with Republicans holding at a third of the electorate, while Democrats have dropped below 40 percent this year, both due to the growth of unaffiliated voters, growing from 16 percent of the 2004 electorate to 27 percent of this year's electorate.

In looking at the NC electorates based on race, white voters have seen their percentages drop from 2004, with the question could Hillary Clinton's campaign be able to replicate the Obama coalition, especially the 2008 electorate that saw over one-quarter of voters as non-white and the 2012 electorate (that went for Romney) at 28 percent non-white.


While 2016's electorate remained the same between white and non-white voters, the shift among non-white voters is interesting, with 'all other races' moving up to 7 percent while black voters dropped to 21 percent of the electorate. 

Finally, in looking at the age categories within the NC electorate, the belief was that if younger voters would make up a similar amount as in 2008, Democrats would have an advantage in this year's election. 


In 2016, 69 percent of the electorate was over the age of 41 years old, the largest of the past four electorates. 

More analysis will be coming on various aspects of the North Carolina electorate in comparison to past presidential elections. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

North Carolina on Election Day: Some Basic Information & Political Dynamics (in Charts, of course)

Well, it's finally, finally, FINALLY here.

Just to give a sense of what North Carolina has seen over the past few general elections in presidential election years (of course, by charts):

Here are the presidential election results for North Carolina:


Here are the 2008 and 2012 exit polls for the state.

Here is a chart documenting the North Carolina registered voter pool from 2002-2016:


Here are the registered voter pools and the electorates in general elections by the percentages of party registration in North Carolina:


Ideology of North Carolina (as expressed in exit polls), 1996 to 2012:


North Carolina general elections by voting method: absentee (early) ballots versus election day ballots cast, 2004-2012:


Here are the turnouts based on registered voter groups in North Carolina, first by race:


The turnouts based on registered voter groups in North Carolina, by party registration:


Next, the turnout rates of North Carolina registered voters by age (note: these age bands are determined by the NC State Board of Elections):


Next, the composition of North Carolina general election electorates by race:


The composition of North Carolina general election electorates by party registration:


The composition of the North Carolina general election electorates by age categories:


2012 presidential election margin of victories in the 100 North Carolina counties with 13 counties (marked in yellow) delivering 50 percent of the state's votes:


Many of North Carolina's counties are becoming very polarized. The NC counties by partisan competitiveness or 'landslide' in margins of victories:


And then the North Carolina vote totals in these competitive/landslide counties:


I'll be posting more charts and data about North Carolina as Election Day rolls on. I'll be an election analyst for WFAE, Charlotte's NPR Station, starting at 7 PM this evening. Thank you all for following this blog; it has been a tremendous ride. Michael

UDPATE: I ran this analysis back after the March 2016 presidential primary in North Carolina, and I think it speaks to the potential support for Donald Trump in this general election. I ran a number of different 'factors' against the county performance for Trump, and the most 'influential' factor was the county's percentage of college-degree holders:


Nearly 50 percent of Trump's 2016 NC county presidential primary support can be explained by the college's percentage of those who hold Bachelor's degrees or higher, and that is an inverse relationship (meaning, the lower the county's percentage of holding a Bachelor's degree, the higher Trump's support was).

UPDATE at 4:41 PM: above were some 'competitive/landslide' maps and data on North Carolina's 100 counties. In current state politics, the divide between urban and rural areas of the state has grown more pronounced, but suburban areas tend to be the most Republican areas in the state, based on total numbers cast for presidential candidates in 2012 in the three areas:


For Democrats, breaking into the spread in suburban North Carolina and making sure the urban areas return large numbers (and perhaps spread the difference out more) will be key to winning in the state.  With three-quarters of the votes come from urban & suburban counties, these will be the key areas to be watching tonight.