Trump and the Baby Boomers

The President continues to enjoy enthusiastic support from the over-65 set.

The key ‘graph in a POLITICO piece of the changing demographics of the American electorate:

The Trump supporters who get the most media attention tend to be economically anxious laborers in economically depressed factory towns. But in Florida, economically secure retirement meccas like the Villages are the real reason Trump won in 2016—and why the state’s Republicans, who have controlled Tallahassee for two decades, think they can avoid a blue wave in 2018 and help re-elect Trump in 2020. For all the hype about Puerto Ricans moving to the Sunshine State after Hurricane Maria, or high school students like the Parkland gun control activists turning 18 and registering to vote, any Democratic surge could be offset by the migration of Republican-leaning seniors who like Florida’s balmy weather and lack of income tax. If midterm elections typically play out as judgments on the presidency, then Florida’s upcoming contests will be a race between the usual laws of political gravity and the state’s demographic destiny: Trump remains unpopular with younger voters, and Democrats have already flipped four Florida legislative seats in low-profile special elections this year, but the older voters who are most likely to vote in midterms are increasingly likely to move to Florida and support the president.

Of course, the flip side of that is that this would seem to be a zero-sum game: to the extent retirees are flooding Florida, they’re leaving other states. Certainly, the flow makes it more likely Trump (presuming he’s the GOP nominee in 2020) will carry the state’s 29 Electoral Votes. But it also makes it less likely he’ll win Pennsylvania’s 20 Electoral Votes, Ohio’s 18, Michigan’s 16, and Wisconsin’s 10 again.

There’s a Census in 2020 but it won’t be completed in time to impact the election. So, the math remains what it was the last cycle.  Still, Hillary Clinton received nearly three million more votes than Trump and Democrats will certainly be more energized this time around.

Trump had a decisive edge in 2016 with voters over 50 and a slight edge with those between 39 and 50. The article explains why:

Republicans outnumber Democrats by more than 2:1 here, and in interviews, they generally expressed support for Trump’s tax cuts, as well as his hands-off approach to Medicare and Social Security. That has helped blunt the perennial Democratic pitch to seniors: Choose us, because Republicans are coming for your checks. But what really attracted them to Trump were issues that had little to do with their pocketbooks or their daily lives—like his opposition to sanctuary cities, or his insistent rhetoric about strength, or his attacks on Muslims, MS-13 and defiant black athletes. They feel like Trump is on their side in a cultural war against cop-haters, scheming foreigners, global warming alarmists, and other politically correct avatars of disorder and decline; they thought President Barack Obama was on the other side, standing with transgender activists, welfare freeloaders and Islamic terrorists. And when Trump vows to make America great again, they sense that he means more like The Villages.

“They want an America that’s a little more like it was when they were growing up, and that’s what Trump is offering,” says Daniel Webster, the area’s conservative Republican congressman. Dennis Baxley, the area’s equally conservative Republican state senator, points out that The Villages offers that, too, with safe streets, light traffic, artificial lakes that provide a real sense of serenity, and hundreds of support groups for every imaginable malady or hardship. It’s a throwback to when they were children in 1950s America, without actual children.

I have a lot of people like those who live at The Villages in my social media, particularly Facebook, feed because I know a lot of retired military officers and senior NCOs. They’re disproportionately Trump supporters for those types of reasons. They saw the Obamas as detached and dismissive of “real America” and are willing to give Trump a lot of leeway in restoring an imagined past. Sure, there’s some casual racism in the mix, but it’s of the type typical of that generation. Even the handful of blacks and Hispanics in that cohort support the President, dismissing the notion that he’s racist.

While Trump’s disapproval numbers are better than they were six months ago, he’s still at a 7.9 negative in the RealClearPolitics average. He’s viewed negatively among every age group now except one: the over-65s. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, for example, “Strongly Disapprove” is the plurality rating for every age category below 65 but it’s reversed for the over-65s, where the plurality (42%) “Strongly Approve” of his performance and another 16% “Somewhat Approve,” for a combined 68% positive. (Even there, 36% “Strongly Disapprove” and 4% “Somewhat Disapprove.)

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    So, basically, these are the people who came of age protesting the Vietnam war, marching for civil rights for African Americans, marching for gay rights, marching for women’s rights…and now they’re Trump supporters?

    What happened?

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  2. reid says:

    My own mother, who is 82, was telling me yesterday that Trump was trying to do good things but that the Democrats were trying to stop him. I pushed back a little, but it’s pointless. I think she’s slowly turned into a Fox News (and only Fox News) viewer. Unfortunately, only time will fix this.

  3. reid says:

    @CSK: By the way, my mother did none of the things you mentioned. She just tried to raise her family in a small town. I’m sure there’s a huge chunk of people in that age group who just lived their lives and didn’t care about protests and politics. Or they supported Nixon, etc. The people who protested back then are surely the ones who dislike Trump.

  4. CSK says:

    @reid:

    Your mother, at 82, wouldn’t be a Boomer. That generation was born between 1946-1964. Someone 82 would fit in more with the so-called Silent Generation. This piece is about the Boomers.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    What happened is that Baby Boomers were never against the Vietnam War, only a minority were. Just as only a minority was involved in Civil Rights. Boomers have been living off that bogus reputation forever. The reality is that Boomers raped the treasury and fouled the future for their children and grandchildren with their greed and selfishness.

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  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Baby boomers, the best argument yet for euthanasia. And for the record, I’m a baby boomer, born in ’58.

  7. Timothy Watson says:

    @CSK: Because the vast majority of people in that generation didn’t march against the Vietnam War or for civil rights for any group.

    For every person who protested the Vietnam War in that generation, there were five who celebrated the National Guard shooting protesters at Kent State.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: What @Michael Reynolds said. But that minority is why those Boomers who don’t support Trump loathe him. It’s unusual, indeed, to have “Strongly Disapprove” at 36% and “Somewhat Disapprove” at only 4%.

  9. reid says:

    @CSK: Touche, but make her 15 years younger and nothing would have changed.

  10. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds: @James Joyner:

    It probably depends on where you grew up. If there were two people in my graduating class who supported the war in Vietnam, I’d be surprised. And the marches were weekly.

  11. Lounsbury says:

    @CSK:
    What happened is that Generational Stereotypes are complete bollocks, frequently nothing more than journalistic story-telling fictions based on narrow, non-representative sub-sets of an age cohort.

    And of course as well people tend structurally to become more conservative (in a general, non-political sense) as they reach senior age cohort – witness the ever-repeated “those young people today” narratives that the grandparent generation replicates without fail for every generation, upon reaching.

    Those two factors together easily explain.

    @CSK:
    And this is why journalistic anecdote is such a rubbish thing to base sociopolitical conclusions on. It is the aggregate,not the individual level experience, which can be perfectly true for a locality and false in the aggregate, that counts.

  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    @CSK:
    Boomers cared about the war in Vietnam only so long as it looked like they might be drafted. The lottery came in 1969 and because we now could see who was and who was not going, the guys with high numbers stopped caring. I drew a 316 at a point where the relevant number was 95. I was way safe. At that point less than a third of those registered were actually drafted, and only a portion of those went to ‘Nam. What had been a terrifying process that might hit any of us became a process where only lottery day was scary and once that was done you could relax.

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  13. Kari Q says:

    As a Gen Xer, I have known that the Baby Boomers were horrible all my life. The good thing is, they left in their wake good infrastructure. The schools were still good, teachers were experienced and well trained, college was affordable. Apologies to the millennials that we couldn’t hand it all on to them intact.

    But I have hope that geriatric medicine and senior services will be excellent when I retire. Sorry to the Millennials who will probably be living in cardboard boxes when they retire.

  14. Kari Q says:

    @Lounsbury:

    It is not correct that people become more conservative as they age. Numerous studies have exploded that myth, but everyone still seems to believe it.

  15. mattbernius says:

    @Kari Q:

    It is not correct that people become more conservative as they age. Numerous studies have exploded that myth, but everyone still seems to believe it.

    I swear that there was just an essay and some reporting with a new theory that some of the people who are more likely to support progressive causes die earlier due to poverty related issues. I keep trying to dig it up.

    It felt very pop-social science to me. However it is true that members of minority groups have, in general, a reduced life expectancy when compared to middle to upper class whites.

  16. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kari Q:

    But I have hope that geriatric medicine and senior services will be excellent when I retire.

    This Baby Boomer knows Republicans want to take it away from him and everything they do is bent to that exact purpose. They passed the budget busting tax cut just so they could scream about the trillion $ deficits and say how we must cut spending.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @Kari Q:

    The good thing is, they left in their wake good infrastructure. The schools were still good, teachers were experienced and well trained, college was affordable. Apologies to the millennials that we couldn’t hand it all on to them intact.

    My parents were on the young side of whatever preceded the Baby Boom (both born in 1943) and I’m on the old side of Gen X (born in 1965). I think most people over 45 have no idea how expensive college has gotten unless they’re paying for their own kids’ education or directly employed in the industry.

    @Kari Q: @mattbernius:

    It is not correct that people become more conservative as they age. Numerous studies have exploded that myth, but everyone still seems to believe it.

    The myth is presumably bolstered by two things: One, people do tend to become more conservative in some ways as they move from youth to responsibility, especially parenthood. Two, the older cohorts *appear* conservative in relation to younger cohorts, simply because things that are big changes to the olds have “always been that way” to the youngs.

  18. Franklin says:

    @reid: Sure. A big chunk of those people also inherited their parents’ scrimp-and-save thriftiness, and there’s little that offends them more than taxes. The recent reform may or may not actually help them, but I’m sure that their impression is good enough to secure their vote.

  19. Slugger says:

    72 y.o. here. I am more liberal than I was when I was 30 because I have seen the reality of what laissez-faire capitalism actually does to people. I know that there are lots of Libertarians out there, and I know that that brand of utopianism is like other forms of utopianism; it is believing in an ideal that simply only exists on paper. I have seen 45 year olds crushed by medical problems, outsourcing of their industry, or simple industrial consolidations of their careers, and these events have made me support the social safety net. The people in these communities in Florida are self selected. They don’t want children around. They don’t want the four seasons. I like living in a neighborhood with kids, other races, traffic, gays, etc. I will enjoy the peace and quiet of death when it comes, but I am not ready to embrace it yet. Real life is hurly-burly, a little dangerous, unsettling at times, but I for one don’t want the carousel to stop.

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  20. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    The myth is presumably bolstered by two things

    Three:

    “If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain” Attributed to a side range of historical personages, including Churchill.

    But now I wonder about the liberal attitudes ascribed to Millennials.

  21. teve tory says:

    @Kathy: research show that the party which is more popular when you’re ~18-early 20’s is who you tend to vote for over the next several decades. Reagan created a whole lot of GOP voters, but since then Clinton, GWB, and Obama have created a shit-ton of people who will vote Democrat for the forseeable future. The fact that 65-yros vote at literally twice the rate as 25-yros is temporarily preventing us from seeing the size of that.

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  22. Kit says:

    Put these Boomers back in the 50’s and they would hate it, from the sky-high taxes to how those taxes were spent. Infrastructure wasn’t allow to decay just because some people were happy in their gated communities. Education was good and cheap. Journalism was serious. There was a general can-do attitude that was miles away from the Republican project since Reagan of government as the problem.

    Perhaps it’s fanciful, but I feel there was a spirit from Roosevelt and WW2, that crested in the 50’s and spilled over into civil rights and environmentalism, until it was sucked back out to sea from its own blunders, bad luck, exhaustion and lack of vision. The country need a new vision. What it got instead was a counter revolution from those unregenerate corners of its Southern soul.

  23. Yank says:

    I know I may just sound like a bitter millennial, but boomers can go to hell. Their parents basically set them up with the ideal situation after winning WWII. But thanks to greed and incompetence they have screwed up the future for my generation.

    Of course, then they have the nerve to lecture us about how we don’t work hard enough.

  24. teve tory says:

    christian cross necklace hanging out on display: check
    handgun sitting prominently on table: check
    pledge to do whatever trump wants: check

    GOP candidate you are a Go.

  25. teve tory says:

    @Yank: I’m a Gen Xer and I agree 100%.

  26. TM01 says:

    @teve tory:

    The fact that 65-yros vote at literally twice the rate as 25-yros is temporarily preventing us from seeing the size of that.

    If only we could do NOW what Kathy wants, which is to remove those commoners from the Leader Selection Process to begin with.

  27. Mister Bluster says:

    Here. My girlfriend Gracie has a message for you.

  28. Mister Bluster says:
  29. Mister Bluster says:

    What If?????

    Slick and Tricia Nixon, former President Richard Nixon’s daughter, are alumnae of Finch College. Slick was invited to a tea party for the alumnae at the White House in 1969. She invited political activist Abbie Hoffman to be her escort and planned to spike President Richard Nixon’s tea with 600 micrograms of LSD. The plan was thwarted when they were prevented from entering after being recognized by White House security personnel, as Slick had been placed on an FBI blacklist. Slick later speculated that she only received the invitation because it was addressed to “Grace Wing” (the singer’s maiden name), and that she never would have been invited if the Nixons had known that “Grace Wing” was the antiestablishment singer Grace Slick.
    WiKi P

  30. Slugger says:

    @Kathy: Life does not end at 35. If you are a conservative at age 65, you have no eyes; you have no soul.

  31. Kathy says:

    @Slugger:

    The quotation of uncertain provenances was meant as an explanation for the belief that people become more conservative as they age. I don’t endorse it. I mean, it’s clear many conservatives have no brain, or choose not to make use of it, or that their brain is not on speaking terms with their mouth.

  32. Scott says:

    What is most ironic is that The Villages is a socialist paradise: A highly regulated society funded by the government through Social Security and Medicare. Reminds me of living on a military base.

  33. Monala says:

    @Slugger: My mom has become more liberal as she has aged, too. (She’s a Silent, and her kids are all Gen X). Her senior center social group is, too — they shunned the one Trump voter among them after the election. Not just on principle, but because the Trump voter was in boasting, “f*ck your feelings” mode, about something the rest of them felt was tragic for this country.

  34. Monala says:

    @Yank: Ditto. I’m Gen X, and it took Occupy Wall St to wake me up to how badly millennials are screwed by the economy, college costs, and lack of resources.

  35. An Interested Party says:

    What is most ironic is that The Villages is a socialist paradise: A highly regulated society funded by the government through Social Security and Medicare. Reminds me of living on a military base.

    These people remind me of Clarence Thomas and slime like him–“I got mine, now screw you!” Not to mention they have the same shitty values…and to think of all the good their parents did…these people are a disgrace…