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Age, Race, Party, and Ideology: Generational Imprinting during the Obama Presidency

April 2016

Gary C. Jacobson


This article compiles the data of 344 Gallup Surveys from June 2009-June 2015 aggregately to document the distribution of current party identification and ideology among whites, Blacks, Hispanics, and those coming of political age during Obama’s presidency compared to earlier generations. Additionally, this article contextualizes the above findings to explore the political and social implications on the future electorate, specifically the 2016 election cycle. Overall, the author finds that whites have increasing become more Democratic in their political leanings during the 3 most recent administrations and that nonwhites, while still predominantly Democratic, have not seen significant variation in partisan leanings. Furthermore, the author finds that young Democrats, Republicans, and Independents tend to support Obama and are more moderate-liberal than prior generations and those 65+ years of age.

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Policy Implications

This article is useful in determining the demographic and political composition of the electorate as a whole but particularly for young voters, which may assist groups and individuals in appealing to different generations to gain votes. People entering the electorate, who are coming of political age (18-24 years), are less ideologically polarized along party lines than their elders and tend to be overwhelmingly moderate-liberal even if they identify as Republicans. The article also explores the generational differences in belief of specific issues like same sex marriage, immigration, and abortion. The author finds that Obama’s legacy is a lasting one, and discusses what that may mean for the 2016 Presidential Race—looking into its potential impact on the Republican Party, suggesting that Obama’s presidency may have provoked partisan reactions that made the Republican Party unmarketable to a rising generation of voters.

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