NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Graying of Politics

October 22, 2002

Older Americans who plan to take part in the Nov. 5 elections outnumber people younger than 30 by a margin of more than 2 to 1. If current trends continue, the number of people 65 and older who vote in mid-term elections is likely to exceed that of young adults by a 4 to 1 ratio by 2022.

These projections are part of a study conducted by the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University.

Here are some other highlights of the report:

  • Young adults hold beliefs quite distinct from those of their parents and grandparents -- more conservative in many of their views of government, more tolerant in many of their social values -- and yet are not expressing them at the polls.
  • The disconnect of the young from politics is prompting candidates to concentrate on issues of interest to the older electorate.
  • As opposed to majorities of older voters, most younger people support Social Security privatization and school vouchers.
  • More young voters see Republicans as the party best able to cope with the nation's main problems, while their parents and grandparents tend to favor Democrats.

Many younger people say they aren't interested in politics because it is corrupt, and don't vote because they think their one vote doesn't count.

Source: Amy Goldstein and Richard Morin, "Younger Voters' Disengagement Skews Politics," Washington Post, October 20, 2002; "A Generational Look at the Public: Politics and Policy," October 2002, Washington Post/Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation/Harvard University.


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