NEW YORK – The key political divide in the United States is not between parties or states; it is between generations. The millennial generation (those aged 18-35) voted heavily against Donald Trump and will form the backbone of resistance to his policies. Older Americans are divided, but Trump’s base lies among those above the age of 45. On issue after issue, younger voters will reject Trump, viewing him as a politician of the past, not the future.
Of course, these are averages, not absolutes. Yet the numbers confirm the generational divide. According to exit polls, Trump received 53% of the votes of those 45 and older, 42% of those 30-44, and just 37% of voters 18-29. In a 2014 survey, 31% of millennials identified as liberals, compared with 21% of baby boomers (aged 50-68 in the survey) and only 18% of the silent generation (69 and above).
The point is not that today’s young liberals will become tomorrow’s older conservatives. The millennial generation is far more liberal than the baby boomers and silent generation were in their younger years. They are also decidedly less partisan, and will support politicians who address their values and needs, including third-party aspirants.
There are at least three big differences in the politics of the young and old. First, the young are more socially liberal than the older generations. For them, America’s growing racial, religious, and sexual plurality is no big deal. A diverse society of whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asians, and of the native-born and immigrants, is the country they’ve always known, not some dramatic change from the past. They accept sexual and gender categories – lesbian, gay, trans, bi, inter, pan, and others – that were essentially taboo for – or unknown to – their grandparents’ (Trump’s) generation.