So, I’ll take a break from working on my conference paper about the generation gap to comment on the interesting little back-and-forth between Matt Yglesias on the matter. From Chait:
Matthew Yglesias predicts that, as the country grows more non-white, white voters will grow more Republican:
I used to hold to the view that the growing non-white share of the electorate would, over time, tip elections to Democrats. I now think the system will remain near equilibrium and what we’ll instead see is white voters growing more Republican as Democrats are more and more seen as the party of non-whites. Mississippi and Arizona, after all, have very large minority votes but they’re hardly hotbeds of liberalism. Instead they’re hotbeds of very conservative white people.
I don’t think these examples are very useful. The white vote in Mississippi is, well, from Mississippi. The white vote in Arizona is disproportionately old.
Yglesias’s thesis is that future generations of white voters will be growing progressively more Republican. But right now, young white voters are dramatically more Democraticthan older white voters. Thus the massive Democratic supermajorities among the young. Not only is the younger generation less white, but the whites themselves are more liberal:
White voters over 30 broke for John McCain by 16 points in 2008, while white voters under 30 went for Obama by 10 points. For Yglesias’s thesis to be born out, those white voters would have to undergo a massive pro-Republican shift as they age — not only getting more Republican, but getting more Republican than current old white voters are right now.
Yup. I think the generation gap is going to be the story in Political Science now much like the gender gap was 20 years ago. Given that people are much more likely to strenghten in their partisanship as they change– rather than change their partisanship– this certainly bodes well for Democrats. Yglesias responds by suggesting that there’s plenty of reason to believe that these young white voters will become more Republican. I just don’t see that, but read him and decide for yourself.
It’s also worth noting, that this is not primarily an Obama-driven phenomenon. In fact, the sharpest break seems to have occurred in 2004, with only marginal change since then. More on the matter when I actually finish the MPSA paper.