The ideological reorientation of early boomers that began in the 1980s has continued. Two of the country’s best long-running surveys show how those born between 1943 and 1958, the so-called near-olds at the front of the baby boom, have changed. In the 1972 American National Election Study survey, 30% of today’s near-olds called themselves liberals. In 2008, 12% did. The proportion calling themselves conservative rose from 21% to 46%. In 1972, 51% of eligible voters in the early baby boom cohort called themselves Democrats and 29% Republicans. In 2008, 45% said they were Democrats and 48% said they were Republicans. The National Opinion Research Center’s data also show a substantial increase (18 points) between 1974 and 2010 in conservative identification for the near-old cohort and a smaller movement in the GOP’s direction. Those born between 1927 and 1942 changed far less in both surveys.
The importance of the ’60s generation is magnified by its demographic weight. The near-olds vote in much higher numbers than some other groups. Census data from 2008 showed that 49% of the eligible voting-age population between the ages 18 and 24 turned out to vote, while 72% of the larger 55-to-63 group said they voted. The combined electoral heft of the near- and new-olds could dramatically alter the political landscape.
Today both groups are deeply dissatisfied with President Obama.