Look what's happening out in the streets -- no, it's not a revolution. More like a counter-revolution. The baby boomers have lost their hair, gone to pot (in more ways than one) and renounced their up-the-establishment views, at least according to Gallup.
Gallup finds that older generations of Americans are much more likely to describe their political views as conservative than as liberal. This includes the large baby boom generation, of whom 44% identified as conservative and 21% as liberal last year.
That 23-percentage-point conservative advantage is less than the 31-point edge for the older "traditionalist" generation, but greater than those for Generation Xers and millennials. In fact, millennials are about as likely to say they are liberal as to say they are conservative.
The results are based on aggregated data from 14 separate Gallup polls conducted in 2014, including interviews with more than 16,000 U.S. adults, aged 18 and older.
The ideological differences across the major generations in the U.S. are consistent with generational differences in party preferences, as older generations tend to be more Republican and younger generations more Democratic.
Providing some statistical support for the notion that U.S. politics is increasingly polarized, Gallup finds that older generations are more likely than younger generations to choose an ideological side -- liberal or conservative -- as opposed to saying they are moderate. Whereas 40% of millennials choose the moderate label to describe their political views, 33% of baby boomers and traditionalists do the same.
Gallup's findings may also explain why Fox News has become the powerhouse that it is, displacing the Weather Channel in seniors' family rooms. There are, according to Gallup, increasingly fewer liberals and increasingly more conservatives in each older generation.
Throughout the past two decades, the relative conservatism of each generation has been consistent, even as the members of each generation have aged. Those born before 1946 have been the most conservative generation in every year going back to 1994, based on the percentage of the generation identifying as conservative minus the percentage identifying as liberal.
Baby boomers have been less conservative than traditionalists, but more conservative than Gen Xers and millennials each year since 1994, spanning the period when baby boomers moved from being in their 30s or 40s to now when they are in their 50s or 60s.
It could be that as people age, they re-evaluate (or "reorder," as they liked to say back in the 60s) their priorities and political beliefs. But Gallup says it's not just that.
"The political mood of the country seems to have affected all generations to some degree, particularly over the past decade. All generations shifted in a slightly more liberal direction in the later years of George W. Bush's presidency, when his approval rating slumped, and to a more conservative direction in the first years of Barack Obama's presidency," the Gallup analysis found.
But longer-term, the trend is towards the liberal side of the equation. Despite the backsliding of the aging Pepsi generation, Gallup found that Americans' ideology as a whole has undergone a gradual shift, with a notable increase in the percentage of Americans identifying as liberal.
This is partly due to "generational replacement" -- liberal younger generations replacing their hidebound elders. Whether today's younger generations remain liberal as they age is, of course, impossible to predict but their more diverse racial and ethnic composition may contribute to continued liberal leanings.
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