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4 years of an unpopular Republican president –> bad news for Republican support among young voters –> continuation of unprecedented generation gap –> I’m not sure what this implies for politics

We hear from Ole Rogeberg on occasion:

2009: Taking Absurd Theories Seriously: Economics and the Case of Rational Addiction Theories

2011: Descriptive statistics, causal inference, and story time

2012: Scientific fraud, double standards and institutions protecting themselves

2013: Struggles over the criticism of the “cannabis users and IQ change” paper

2015: Cannabis/IQ follow-up: Same old story

It’s been a few years and it’s time for some new material!

Rogeberg writes:

I recently thought of your work [with Jonathan Auerbach and Yair Ghitza] on how the popularity of the sitting president predicts future voting pattern, with stronger “shaping” effects for individuals in certain age ranges. Would it be possible to use the already estimated model to estimate how the Trump presidency may shift future voting patterns relative to a counterfactual where Trump is given a more typical popularity score pattern across his presidency (e.g., replacing his scores with those of George W. Bush or “average scores across recent Republican presidents” or something)?

I haven’t done the calculation, but my quick guess is that Trump’s four years of unpopularity will be bad news for future Republican support among people who are currently between 15 and 30 years old. So we can expect a continuation of the recent generation gap among voters, a gap that is unprecedented in the history of polling. I’m not sure what the implications of this will be for politics. I’m not saying that the Republicans can’t win future elections, just that, based on what we know now, I expect that they won’t get much of the young-adult vote.

14 Comments

  1. Roger says:

    uhh, oddly timed Trump/Republicans focus, age old Generation Gap meme, very vague political speculation of no importance — sounds like blog bait for a slow Sunday morning?

    • Andrew says:

      Roger:

      These posts were written months in advance. And I pretty much have no idea what day of the week they will appear, as I just schedule them by date.

      Regarding the relevance of the topic: Electoral politics is relevant all the time, not just during election campaigns. I agree this is speculation, but speculation is what we do when we’re unsure. Speculation, labeled as such, can be valuable. Finally, And if you want to think that voting preferences and election outcomes have “no importance,” you’re free to hold that opinion but I disagree!

  2. chrisare says:

    At some point when left cultural hegemony becomes too oppressive and dull, the youth counter culture will be right leaning. The question is if the republicans can put forth a candidate who connects with that countercultural energy.

    • Eklavya says:

      It (Left cultural hegemony becoming too oppressive and dull + counter culture shifting towards Right) seems to already have happened, notice the focus on “cancel culture” in Republican messaging, plus the very public statements by extreme Right-wing comedians like Jerry Seinfeld to never perform on college campuses.

      The one caveat in the last part (emergence of Republican candidate who connects with that countercultural energy) is that overall the Liberals (misnomer nowadays, they’re really hard Left) cares a lot more about political action. As Richard Hanania points out here: https://richardhanania.substack.com/p/why-is-everything-liberal, “Most people are relatively indifferent to politics and see it as a small part of their lives, yet a small percentage of the population takes it very seriously and makes it part of its identity. Those people will tend to punch above their weight in influence, and institutions will be more responsive to them.” I.e. some dynamic akin to Taleb’ dictatorship of the intolerant minority playing out.

      • Andrew says:

        Chrisare:

        I haven’t seen evidence that voting patterns are predicted by countercultural energy. Often the counterculture is unpopular—that’s why it’s the counterculture and not the main culture! I expect that if we continue to see unpopular Republican presidents and popular Democratic presidents, that young voters will continue to prefer the Democrats.

        Eklavya:

        Is Jerry Seinfeld really “extreme right-wing”? I’m skeptical of that claim. Dude has a billion dollars, if he doesn’t want to perform on campuses he doesn’t have to do so, that doesn’t make him right-wing.

    • Wonks Anonymous says:

      Scott Alexander predicted something like that happening years ago, but recently admitted he was wrong:
      “But overall I was wrong. Hip young people and conservatism remain as antithetical as ever. Instead, we got the rise of socialism, of the DSA, Bernie Sanders, and Chapo Trap House variety.”
      https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/the-rise-and-fall-of-online-culture

  3. oncodoc says:

    Your hypothesis that political orientation is influenced by experiences during youth is probably hard to track and prove. The big confounding fact is that voter turnout grows with age with the newly enfranchised being least and the over 65s the most likely to cast a ballot. It is hard to follow trends over 25-40 years. The great earthquake of 2037 and the arrival of the visitors from Arcturus in 2043 may obscure Mr. Trump’s impact on the 2048 election. Likewise, I doubt that recent voters spent much time thinking about George H. W. Bush.

    • Andrew says:

      Oncodoc:

      I agree that we didn’t prove anything. All we did is some data analysis. Regarding your last sentence: I don’t know how much time recent voters spent thinking about George H. W. Bush. Our model does not suppose that they’re thinking about Bush now; it supposes that many voters were thinking about Bush when he was president, and that they got into a habit of partisanship that they did not change.

  4. oncodoc says:

    I’m not disagreeing with you. I just think that “voters” are a dynamic pool that people enter after, often much after, they become technically eligible. This makes it hard to determine their motivation. I believe that most of us are less flexible and less apt to reflect the real experiences of our lives than we all like to think. In other words that is your thesis. However, it is hard to prove. How should a scientist regard hard to prove hypotheses even when they are very sensible as yours is?

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