Baby Gap

No, I'm not talking about the story with the cute clothes for your little one.  Rather, according to some interesting political science research, conservatives have a lot more babies than liberals.  In fact:

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%.

Arthur Brooks, the Syracuse University Professor behind this research, goes on to argue:

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.

Certainly an interesting proposition, but I just don't buy the conclusion that it means that liberals are doomed over the long term.  For starters, on the social issues that seem to be ever more prominent, young people are always more liberal.  Many an otherwise conservative young person is quite tolerant of homosexual relationships, where a similarly conservative 50-year old would not be.  The pattern seems less strong for abortion, but exists there as well.  I just don't think all these “conservative” babies will be quite so conservative when they grow up. 

Finally, I'm not quite sure what Brooks means by “the current
ineffectiveness of liberal youth voter campaigns today.”  In
2004 Exit Polls, persons under 30 voted overwhelmingly (54-45) for Kerry– the only age group to prefer Kerry to Bush.  That does not strike me as a promising trend for conservatives.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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