Party ID and participation by age

Aleks pointed me to this report by Scott Keeter of the Pew Research Center. First the quick pictures:



These should not be a surprise (given that there are tons of surveys that ask about age, voting, and party ID) but it’s interesting to see the pictures. Peak Republican age is about 46–that’s a 1960 birthday, meaning that your first chances to vote were the very Republican years of 1978 and 1980, when everybody hated Jimmy Carter.

The Pew report also had information on political participation:


As expected, the under-30s vote a lot less than other Americans. But a lot more of them try to persuade others, which is interesting and is relevant to our studies of political attitudes in social networks.

P.S. The graphs are pretty good, although for party id vs age, I would get rid of those dotted lines and clean up the axes to every 10% on the y-axis and every 10 years on x. The table should definitely be made into a graph. The trouble is, it takes work to make the graph and you wouldn’t really get any credit for doing it. That’s why we’d like a general program that makes such tables into graphs.

5 thoughts on “Party ID and participation by age

  1. You've no way of separating age and cohort effects here. People get more conservative as they age, but some cohorts have always been more conservative than others.

    So I guess you can't do more than speculate on these results; for example, that Boomers give more money to political parties because they're now at a time of life when they've got more money, and that the Dutiful generation now gives more time to politics (including turning up to vote) because they're now at a stage of life where they've got more time.

  2. The graph of party identification by age brings to mind the adage attributed to Churchill that "a man who isn't a liberal by age 20 has no heart; a man who isn't a conservative by age 40 has no brains."

    Not that I agree with it, of course (nor would I bet money that it is an actual Churchil quote).

  3. Maybe I am missing something, but how can this be? Except for the group in the early 40s, every group leans Democrat, sometimes, overwhelmingly so, but Repubs have been in the majority for much of the last 15-20 years. How can most of the population lean Democrat, but Republicans are winning the majority of elections? Maybe this shows the problem with a survey, because if people vote Republican, they aren't leaning Democratic.

  4. Hi All,

    You might be interested in a paper which uses panel data on 2 cohorts of Americans; data on high school seniors from age 18 to 55, and data on their parents from age roughly 48 to roughly 70.

    Laura Stoker and M. Kent Jennings, "Aging, Generations, and the Development of Partisan Polarization in the United States" (January 17, 2006). Institute of Governmental Studies. Paper WP2006-1.

    The paper shows how changes over the life-course of individuals, changes between generations, and historical changes in the party system can combine to produce current patterns of partisanship.



  5. Jake,

    Thanks for the link! The paper looks interesting. I'd like to see some graphs, but of course there's nobody stopping me from looking at these data and making some graphs myself…

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