Published: June 22, 2012
Old vs. Young

IN a partisan country locked in a polarizing campaign, there is no shortage of much discussed divisions: religious and secular, the 99 percent and the 1 percent, red America and blue America.
Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, younger and older adults voted in largely similar ways, with a majority of each supporting the winner in every presidential election. Sometime around 2004, though, older voters began moving right, while younger voters shifted left. This year, polls suggest that Mitt Romney will win a landslide among the over-65 crowd and that President Obama will do likewise among those under 40.
The young not only favor gay marriage and school funding more strongly; they are also notably less religious, more positive toward immigrants, less hostile to Social Security cuts and military cuts and more optimistic about the country’s future. They are both more open to change and more confident that life in the United States will remain good.

Younger adults are faring worse in the private sector and, in large part because they have less political power, have a less generous safety net beneath them. Older Americans vote at higher rates and are better organized. There is no American Association of Non-Retired Persons.
“They don’t think the Republican Party thinks like them,” much as older voters feel alienated by what they see as today’s immigrant-embracing, gay-friendly, activist-government Democratic Party, Mr. Dowd said last week.

They view a boisterously diverse United States as a fact of life, and they view life as clearly better than it used to be. But they are also products of the longest economic slump in 70 years, and they would like a little help. They wish the country would devote more attention to its future, especially on education and the climate.