This election could mark the end of the dominance of baby boomer (and older) voters in presidential elections, according to research conducted by Pew Research Center.
Baby boomers and previous generations are estimated to have cast the vast majority of votes during presidential elections since 1980, according to census data. But after the 2016 election, the dominance of baby boomers and the silent generation in elections is likely to end.
In the 2012 election, boomers and older generations accounted for 56 percent of those who said they voted, said Richard Fry, senior researcher at Pew Research Center, in an analysis of the data. Millennials aging into the voting population will join Gen X to make up the majority of eligible voters for the first time in decades this year.
According to the Pew Research Center, 126 million millennials and Gen X adults were eligible to vote as of July, representing 56 percent of eligible voters, compared with 98 million boomers and other adults from prior generations, representing 44 percent of eligible voters.
Fry noted, however, that the younger majority of eligible voters does not necessarily translate into a younger electorate. That will depend on voter turnout on Election Day. During the last presidential election, 70 percent of boomer and silent generation voters turned out to vote. If that turnout percentage holds for the 2016 election, 54.5 percent of millennials and Gen X voters would have to vote to match boomer and silent generation voters.
Fry said that is plausible, based on previous election data and historical trends. In 2012, 53.9 percent of eligible Gen X and millennial voters cast a ballot, and historically, turnout by generation increases each election until it hits a peak and then declines.
Turnout for voters in the greatest generation, defined as those born between 1901 and 1927, peaked in the 1984 election at 76 percent, said Fry. Turnout for the silent generation, or those born between 1928 and 1945, peaked in the 1992 election.
While voter turnout is difficult to predict, Fry said historical trends suggest that millennial and Gen X voter turnout is on a similar upward trend that previous generations experienced, and therefore these two generations very well could reach a majority in the coming election.
A look at 2014 data on partisanship among the different generations from the Pew Research Center suggests that about 51 percent of millennials identified with Democrats, while 47 percent of the silent generation identified with Republicans. Baby boomers and Gen X fell somewhere in between the two.
What this means for the outcome of the election will probably not be clear until after ballots are cast on Nov. 8.
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