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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Demographic Change Has Complex Implications for U.S. Politics

Brooking Senior Fellow William H. Frey, author of “Diversity Explosion,” has a post, “Today’s race and generational voting preferences cannot predict future election outcomes,” which reveals how potentially-complex America’s political demography will become in the years ahead.
“…While new racial shifts introduced by the millennial generation may very well drive current and future Democratic voter advantages,” says Frey, “the national electorate will also embody a large and growing senior population as the mostly white baby boom population continues to age.” Further:

There will clearly be a browning of the 18- to 29-year-old and 30- to 44-year-old segments of the electorate as the large millennial generation begins entering middle age in 2024. By then, minorities will constitute nearly one-half of young adult eligible voters and 40 percent of those ages 30 to 44. These represent voting blocs that are ripe for Democratic retention if current race and generational political affinities continue.

However, continues Frey,

During the same period, the large, mainly white group of voters age 45 to 64 will lose some of its baby boom population as the latter advance into a sharply rising senior population. Votes from these older two groups will be easier for the Republican Party to retain if current generational voting affinities continue. Thus, there will still be a contest. That is, in 2024, the eligible voter population age 45 and above will be 26 percent larger than the eligible voting population under age 45–a disparity that will be further widened by the higher turnout of older eligible voters.

And if that wasn’t tricky enough political terrain, Frey adds:

Democrats could make greater strides with key white voting blocs including white college graduates–both men and women–who will increasingly dominate post-boomer generations of voters. Republicans could make gains among Hispanics and other minorities. Furthermore, both parties will do their best to garner the favor of the growing, high-turnout senior population that will be increasingly composed of baby boomers.

Going forward, Republicans arguably face the more daunting task, considering their anti-immigration profile and failure to offer young voters anything impressive in terms of better educational and employment opportunities. They are going to have to come up with some new policies to get any political traction with youth and Latino voters, and they seem to have no interest in reaching out to African Americans.
For Democrats, it appears that the overarching challenge in the years ahead is to find creative ways to get a healthier share of senior votes. In terms of policies to improve health care and retirement security, Dems are in good position to accomplish this. But there is plenty of room for improvement in terms of educating senior voters and messaging that appeals to them.

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