It’s a story (followed by an argument, followed by facts) about the biggest split within the Democratic Party. It starts with two groups.
Group A is a social minority whose political and cultural power exploded during the 1960s. As that decade went on and certain factions within Group A grew more militant, Congress pushed to extend voting rights to millions of disenfranchised people in Group A. Today, Group A is shrinking as a share of the population, though its leaders remain visible and outspoken – and though its members increasingly dominate pop culture and the entertainment industry.
Group B, by contrast, holds sweeping political power. Much of the machinery and benefits of government have therefore aligned in Group B’s interest, despite the fact that Group B’s members are about half as likely to live in poverty as those of Group A.
Though they’ve often joined the same political coalitions, Groups A and B face a deep cultural divide on issues from the war in Iraq to gay marriage. In this year’s Democratic presidential primary, those fissures have showed up in state after state across the country, with Barack Obama winning Group A by colossal margins almost everywhere he goes and Hillary Clinton winning Group B by margins almost as big. It’s such a clear split that it seems to threaten the party’s unity.
Oh, by the way: Though no member of Group A has ever been elected president, more than half our presidents have belonged to Group B.
Group A is adults under 30. Group B is adults over 60.
We’ve all read that Obama has young supporters. But given the oceans of ink and wastelands of airtime devoted to Obama’s race and Clinton’s gender, few people probably realize how vast the age divide is in this election.
Friends, it’s staggering.
And here’s what I found, Harpers style:
States Obama won: 5
States Clinton won: 6
States in which Obama won voters under 30: 11
States in which Obama also won voters under 45: 10
Even when he loses, he wins young people – every time. In case you’re wondering, there was no such trend on the GOP side; for them, voting trends by age were all over the map. Speaking of which, compare Obama’s consistency among the young to his showing in these other categories (some uncertain, thanks to incomplete data):
States in which Obama won white voters: 2
States in which Obama won white men: 4
States in which Obama won rich people ($100k and up): 7 or 8
States in which Obama won Protestants: 6 to 8
States in which Obama won Catholics: 2 to 4
States in which Obama won liberals: 7 or 8
States in which Obama won college grads: 9
Obama’s victories among the young aren’t just consistent. They’re colossal. In Ohio, for example, he won under-30s by a 35-point margin despite losing the state by 10 points overall. Her wins among her strongest constituencies, such as white women, are almost never so lopsided.
Average margin by which Obama won voters under 30: 28 percentage points
Average margin by which Clinton won white women: 23 percentage points
States in which Obama’s margins among young people exceeded Clinton’s margins among white women: 7
Of course, Obama’s success with the young isn’t the whole story. Old people luuuuuv Hillary Clinton. She’s at least as popular among the elderly as among white people:
States in which Clinton won voters over 60: 9
Average margin by which Clinton won voters over 60: 13 percentage points
States in which Clinton’s margins among old people exceeded her margins among white people: 6
Finally, Obama’s advantage among “liberal rich eggheads” – that’s the phrase Clinton aides use to describe people with four-year degrees – is probably exaggerated by his strength among the young. Yes, he won college grads in most states. But people between 25 and 35 are about 50 percent more likely to have bachelor’s, professional or graduate degrees than people aged 65 and up. That’s certainly skewing the figures, especially since the people least likely to have degrees – elderly women – are at the core of Clinton’s support.
What does this all mean? It means that, now that the race is over, the Democratic Party is poised to lock in young voters for three national elections in a row, which political scientists say is enough to breed a lifelong partisan allegiance. It means that we could see a round of age-identity politics that hasn’t existed since 1972. It means that there’s a big divide between the political beliefs of the young and the old — one mostly unexplored by the breathless, race-obsessed major media outlets. It means — as I think some militant young person once said — that you shouldn’t trust any pundit over 30.
-posted by Mike