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.