Baby Gap?

Arthur C. Brooks has an opinion piece in today's Wall Street Journal:

On the political left, raising the youth vote is one of the most common goals. This implicitly plays to the tired old axiom that a person under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart (whereas one who is still a liberal after 30 has no head). The trouble is, while most "get out the vote" campaigns targeting young people are proxies for the Democratic Party, these efforts haven't apparently done much to win elections for the Democrats. The explanation we often hear from the left is that the new young Democrats are more than counterbalanced by voters scared up by the Republicans on "cultural issues" like abortion, gun rights and gay marriage.

But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put, liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them, they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey, if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked 100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap" of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.
Mr. Brooks is a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Public Affairs, so maybe he knows more than me, but I'm going to poke a few holes in his theory.

If, as an adult, you vote conservative, almost assuredly your parents did too. But in my experience (I know the plural of anecdote isn't evidence but work with me) if you vote progressive as an adult, your about equally as likely to have progressive parents as conservative parents. Therefore, if 80% of people vote the same as their parents, I'd say that nearly ALL adult conservative voters are from that 80% even though they make up only approximately 50% of the electorate while the 20% left over would predominantly turn to progressive politics.

Oh, and the author conveniently ignores immigration.

I'm not buying the conservative "we'll out-breed you!" argument. Especially when it's tied to the ineffectiveness of 'get out the vote' campaigns for the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party hasn't come up with any candidates that excite young people. It's that simple.

And another thing to remember is that most of the 'hot button' issues that the GOP uses to excite its base will have decreasing impact as people who accept gay people (they grew up watching them on TV and meeting out people in their high schools) reach voting age. Environmentalism is an issue on which the GOP and the majority of young people disagree.

Young people today don't remember the '50s. They have no resentful feelings about the '60s. What they do know is the '90s and they know that we've moved in the wrong direction since then.

Should war develop with Iran/Syria/North Korea a draft would be the only way for the Republicans to sustain that new war in addition to current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's not going to be popular with voters in the 'draftable' age bracket.

In the end, I just don't believe that how your parents vote has as much impact on who you vote for as Mr. Brooks contends. The vast majority of people vote for politicians, not parties. Party registration, perhaps, but in the end most people vote for the candidate they like better, regardless of how their parents vote.

No comments: