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Showing posts with label Age. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Age. Show all posts
Some charts on generation warfare - 2/9/17
I've written quite a bit about how age and generational conflicts are playing an increasingly important role in American politics - but it occurs to me that I've never actually spelled out how this is happening. So I've put together some charts.*

First, it's worth revisiting a few polls that reveal age inflections in our political polarization:

On basically every major political question you can name, young voters are more progressive than older voters. Young voters overwhelmingly prefer Sanders to Clinton, Clinton to Trump, and Socialism to Capitalism; older voters hold the exact opposite views.

This already is a recipe for generational conflict - but on top of polarized political preferences, we are also seeing massive changes in the sizes of different generational cohorts:

By 2040 Boomers will no longer be the largest generation, and by 2046 Millennials will have assumed that role for the foreseeable future. By 2053 there will be two Millennials for every Boomer.

Of course, age-inflected political polarization and changing population sizes will only impact things like electoral outcomes insofar as anyone bothers to vote. And while this may seem like bad news for Millennials, who vote at lower rates than everyone else, voting patterns tend to change with age. As the Millennial cohort grows older, they're likely to vote more frequently. If we assume that everyone's voting habits as they grow older will tend to match the age equivalent rates of 2016, future turnout will probably look something like this:

Here, superior turnout only buys Boomers an extra year on top - they lose their electoral plurality in 1941. Millennials gain the plurality a decade later, and by 2060 they outvote every other group combined.

Suppose, then, that these political preference and turnout trends all hold for future Democratic primaries - and suppose that for the next few decades, we continue to see primaries pitting Clinton-type candidates against Sanders-type candidates. Cross reference the above trends, and this is what our future politics would look like:

What this chart tells us is that by 2039, among Americans who are currently eligible voters, support for Sanders-type candidates will completely overwhelm support for Clinton-type candidates. This model relies on some awfully big assumptions, but most of them - population growth projections and lifetime political preference retention - are grounded in fairly rigorous science. 

The most significant unknown here is whether or not Sanders-and-Clinton-style candidates continue to run in the primaries. Another crucial consideration here is that by 2039, in addition to the voters considered here, at least 90 million Americans who are currently under 18 (or are not born yet) will have become eligible voters. We can't predict this age cohort's preferences with any certainty, but if the trend of younger voters being progressive voters holds, Sanders-style candidates would be winning well before 2039.

What we can be sure of, regardless, is that the age of the Boomers is coming to an end. Their generation is rapidly shrinking, and no amount of superior turnout will save them in the long-run. I think it fairly safe to assume that they'll resent this diminished influence after a good half century of political hegemony, and that they'll leverage all of the entrenched institutional and systematic privileges and advantages that they've built for themselves over the years in order to try to retain their power. That strategy can't last forever either, however, and as the rude teen barbarians crash against the gates of old privilege, it's gonna get ugly.

* Brief note on terminology: due to constraints on available data, I've divided the population into four age brackets - 18-29, 30-44, 45-64, and 65+. These brackets correspond roughly, but not exactly, to the commonly accepted "generational" divisions (between Millennials and Gen-X, Gen-X and Boomers, and Boomers and the Silent Generation). These divisions are completely arbitrary and artificial, but the difference explains why, for example, some analysts already consider Boomers a minority generation. For the sake of this analysis this difference isn't particularly important.
Millennials and people of color are the opposition - 1/30/17
I've been looking through Trump's favorability polling, and you will be shocked to learn that his support remains divided by gender, race, and age. The first divide remains the weakest: only a slim majority of women (50.9%) disapprove of Trump, and while he can't win majority support from men, he does have a plurality of them (at 48.3%). Race, on the other hand, remains the strongest divide: people of color give Trumpo his strongest disapproval ratings (63%), while his strongest approvals come from white people (53.2%). Similarly, the age gap is pretty distinct:

Trump is winning most of his support from the olds, with a slight bump from doofuses in Generation X; meanwhile, the only age group where he faces majority disapproval is Millennials (at 55%).

While the sample sizes are too small to specify the intersectional percentages with much confidence, it seems generally clear that race is playing the largest role in determining opposition to Trump, followed by age, and then gender. If you are a person of color, you are almost certainly going to view him unfavorably whether you are young or old; if you are white, then the age trends become more significant. Gender predicts a slight preference, but the other factors seem more important - if you are young you're likely to disapprove of Trump even if you're a man, and if you're old you're likely to approve of him even if you're a woman, and if you're a person of color you'll disapprove either way.

None of this will come as much of a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention to the demographics of American politics in recent history, but the age dynamic is worth emphasizing since it's so persistently ignored by in the media. And for reasons I've noted repeatedly, age gaps are always worth bearing in mind whenever the confrontations and rhetoric between the left and the right start getting militant.
How do gender *and* age shape the electoral college? - 10/12/16
Yesterday, Nate Silver posted a widely-disseminated article aspiring to show how the 2016 election would play out if only men or women voted. Predictably, the election swings deep blue when only women vote, and bright red when only men vote. Out of curiosity, I used Reuter's new States of the Nation tool to take a quick look at this year's age gap, and while the results were similarly predictable, this approach encounters three significant problems. First, the tool only allows one to drill down to the 18-30 year old bracket, which excludes Millennials ages 31-34. Second, a lot of the sample sizes are too small to produce reliable data, which means that even states like South Carolina (with 9 electoral votes) can't be called. And third, 538 used a completely different methodology to produce its maps:
Here’s a quick way to estimate it. In the polls I cited above, Clinton is doing 10 points better among women than among the electorate overall. So we’ll add 10 points to her current polls-only margin in every state to forecast her performance if women were the only ones who could vote.
This is a pretty fast-and-loose approach that I don't have much confidence in, but it at least makes it easy to make some apples-to-apples comparisons. So relying on the 538 approach, here's what the election looks like if only Millennials voted:

In a youth election, Trump is held to single digit electoral votes, and Clinton wins every state except two: Wyoming, and Nebraska's third district. Compare this to what happens if no Millennials vote:

Here, Clinton still manages a win, but Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, and Maine's second district all swing into Trump's column. More likely, this could threaten Democratic hopes of capturing the Senate by allowing Republicans to keep control of seats in Indiana and Wisconsin - both states Democrats hope to flip.

The conclusions here are pretty straightforward:
  • In the electoral college, at least, the gender gap is bigger than the age gap: there is a 270 vote swing from men to women, compared to a 213 vote swing from olds to millennials.
  • These gaps create significantly different outcomes, however, because they're centered at different points: women are more reactionary than millennials, and men are more reactionary than olds.
These points raise an interesting intersectional question: how do age and gender combine to influence electoral outcomes? To answer this, the first thing we need to do is break down the vote margins for every combination of old and young men and women, which gives us a table like this:

Already, it should be completely obvious that age ends up playing a far more important role in predicting preference than gender. Trump has a slight advantage among old men, and because of the sheer number of olds voting, it's easy to look at the electoral college and conclude that this pattern holds for all age groups. But in fact, not only does this pattern not hold among millennials - it actually reverses, so that Clinton has an 8.4 point advantage among millennial men compared to millennial women. Even among millennial women, however, Clinton's advantage is astronomically larger than it is among old women, who actually do .2 points worse than the national average.

If we look at how these differences would play out in the electoral college, it's clear where Trump's support comes from and where Clinton's support comes from. Among older women, Clinton would actually lose an electoral vote in Maine's second district. And among young men, Clinton wins every electoral vote except one, in Nebraska's third district. It's youth that most powerfully predicts support for Clinton, with gender proving unreliable at best.
Harold Myerson thinks we have a white racist millennial Clinton-defector problem. He's wrong. - 10/6/16
I anticipated this in my previous article, but since Harold Myerson is making the argument directly, I'd like to shoot it down directly:
Hillary Clinton is still having trouble winning the allegiance of the apt description of the millennials holding out for the third-party candidates: They’re all white...a hard core of young, white Bernie-or-Busters may yet believe that voting for Stein, or even Johnson, is an expression of their disdain for the system.
As noted, Clinton is not actually having trouble winning the allegiance of millennials - she's winning about 53% of them, compared with a minority of 38.9% among olds. Meanwhile, a plurality 39.3% of olds are voting for Trump, compared to just 24.7% of millennials. Clinton does not have a millennial problem - she has an old people problem, and a millennial solution. Analytically breaking down these age groups into conveniently gerrymandered sub-demographics (white millennials! third-party defector millennials! white third party defector millennials!) does nothing to contest the broader, obvious age trend; it just makes one's analysis increasingly narrow, and increasingly irrelevant.

Faced with these brute numbers, Myerson now only has one possible move: to compare today's young voters with those from 2012. But if we do that, the second premise of his argument collapses: Myerson wants to blame "white skin privilege" for the failure to support Clinton, but if the last election is our baseline, it's young people of color who are running from the Democratic party. He can, that is to say, only salvage his critique of millennials by abandoning his critique of white people, and vice versa.

A second problem with Myerson's race critique is that he repeatedly tries to make it into a specific critique of leftists. He opens with an anecdote about Stein and Sanders supporters; he quotes an organizer who singles out Sanders supporters; and he closes by once again brooding about the notorious "Bernie-or-Busters".

But to do this, he has to play fast-and-loose with the numbers, and in a way that strikes me as pretty deliberate. Consider, for example, the crux of his argument, which the article even highlights in a pull-quote:
Presumably, this 2% discrepancy demonstrates some kind of white privilege among leftist voters. That's why it's interesting that he omits a directly relevant fact: the same poll reports that Stein is also at 4% among Latinx and Asian Americans. An even more interesting point is that he includes those same numbers when he reports on Gary Johnson, who has the backing of "15 percent of whites...but just 8 percent of Latinos, 6 percent of Asian Americans, and 4 percent of African Americans." Comparatively, it seems clear that white supremacy is far and away the province of young libertarian voters, and that there is no detectable third-party voting trend that's unique to young white leftists; it also looks a lot like Myerson erased Stein's support among Asians and Latinxs precisely to obscure this point.

Finally, it's worth putting the millennial attrition issue into perspective. When Myerson notes that Stein and Johnson have 4% and 11% of the millennial vote, one's tempted to conclude that this amounts to 15% of the youth vote for Clinton. But in fact, as YouGov reports, only 35% of third party voters under 30 say that they prefer Clinton to Trump - meaning that she's really only losing about 5% of the youth vote to third parties. And since there's no significant evidence that this 5% is disproportionately white, it's hard to escape the impression that Myerson is accusing young leftists of racism for no good reason, while ignoring support for Trump in how own generation that's larger by several orders of magnitude.
The blame-the-kids two-step -
In just the past few weeks, The Hill, The Observer, Salon, Paste, Fox News, Newsweek, New York Magazine, Bloomberg, and Vox have run articles referencing "Clinton's millennial problem" - and that's leaving out the endless parade of television and social media pundits saying the exact same thing. From, this, one might suspect that there is some kind of specific and known challenge that Clinton faces among millennials - and usually, the conclusion is that it is up to millennials to fix it.

But look closer, and you'll actually notice that the anti-millennial grievance has switched between two lines of criticism, each equally baseless in their own way.

Argument 1

Here, in argument (1), millennial support for Clinton is inadequate compared to other age groups. Specifically, olds like to point to the comparatively high youth support for third-party candidates in order to suggest that support for Clinton comparatively low. This of course is demonstrably incorrect on multiple grounds. Voters under 30 give Clinton her second highest margin of all age groups, and millennials (when we bracket generations correctly) give her a margin greater than every other age group combined. And while millennials may vote for third parties in high numbers, most of that attrition is coming from Trump's camp, not Clinton's. For instance, among supporters of Gary Johnson, every other age group has a significantly higher attrition rate from Clinton's camp than millennials do.

Thus, argument 1 fails completely: millennials are voting in higher numbers for Clinton than anyone else, and defecting from her far less. 

Argument 2

That's why, particularly in the past week or so, we've seen a slightly different complaint:

In argument 2, millennial support for Clinton is inadequate compared to their support for Obama. The premise here is that we should expect age groups to give Democrats a certain level of support based on the last election, and that their failure can be measured by how much that support declines.

It should probably be enough to say that pointing to the last election really just defers the question: instead of asking "are millennials underperforming," we're now asking "did millennials overperform last time?" But instead of leaning too hard on that, I'd like to make a distinct point:

18-30 year old voters

Clearly, if failure is simply measured by decline, then young African Americans are failing liberals more than anyone, followed by Asian Americans and then Latino/as. Any shift among support among young white voters, meanwhile, is so small that it's barely outside the margin of error (as is any current difference between young whites and older whites). So you cannot, that is to say, talk about the decline in youth support for Democrats without laying almost exclusive blame on young voters of color. Somehow, I doubt that Clinton's (largely white) media surrogates will have the audacity to rally behind that complaint.

What if Clinton does not actually have a millennial problem

Often when a grievance has to rely on multiple, shifting lines of critique, we can take this as a good indication that the arguments are just being backfilled to support the complaint. This is particularly true when the criticism turns out to be unusually baseless and flimsy; when this happens, it often makes sense to start looking for motivation. One egregiously incorrect data mistake is understandable - two are suspicious, and beg for an explanation.

Here, I think the explanation is pretty simple. Clinton's lead over Trump has tightened over the past month, to the point of occasionally disappearing altogether. This is making Clinton supporters nervous, and naturally they are looking for someone to blame. And because olds are significantly overrepresented on the editorial boards and in the opinion columns of elite media, this anxiety will predictably express itself as an inclination towards blaming young people. The persistence of this grievance says almost nothing about the actual numbers - past or present - but it says a lot about the ageism in our media.
Some intersectional analysis on the Trump and Clinton coalitions - 9/23/16
The demographic divides that define the 2016 election have been fairly clear for months, though some pundits, of course, persist in getting them wrong. As I tweeted out earlier tonight, the general state of affairs looks something like this:

If you're white, and/or if you are a young boomer, you're more likely to vote for Trump than Clinton. Otherwise, you're more likely to vote for Clinton than Trump. Within those two coalitions, of course, the strength of support also varies, but any demographic analysis of this election has to begin with race and age.

This, of course, is a significant simplification. A more intersectional approach wouldn't just look at how identity, as defined by a single dimension, determines one's politics - it would look at how the intersection of multiple identities do so. And when we do this, the picture gets more complicated. 

The boomer race split

Consider, for example, how the numbers look at the intersection of age and race (here, black vs. white):

A few significant trends stand out. First, of course, race is by far the most important factor predicting one's vote - this is implicit in the first chart. This tendency is so strong, in fact, that it masks a second trend that only becomes visible here: a split between black and white middle-aged voters. Support for Trump isn't simply coming from young boomers. It's specifically coming from young white boomers, and also from ageing white gen-xers. Among black Americans, meanwhile, we see a complete reversal of this trend: support for Clinton is the strongest among black Americans between 50 and 59.

This fact of black American life gets completely erased by the usual simplified way that we talk about political demographics. It is numerically correct that Trump's support comes from boomers, but only because the overwhelming majority of boomers happen to be white. Such statistics tell us just as much about racial proportions among age groups as they tell us about political preferences. It's only when we dig into the data, and do an intersectional analysis of the trends, that we get a more accurate picture of what's going on.

In what sense is Trump the candidate of white men?

Or consider, meanwhile, the common characterization of Trump as the candidate of white men. This is obviously true in the narrow sense that Trump has the highest margin of support among white men - but let's put this fact in context:

Once again, we find that the most important divide at work is race. Race is what divides preference for Trump from preference from Clinton, and race proves far more important than gender even within the two coalitions. (This is why, for instance, support for Clinton is stronger among black men than Hispanic women.)

This point is worth attending to when, for example, we have multiple white women in media characterizing Trump as the candidate of white men. As we see above, this is mostly an exercise in last-place-avoidance - but it does little to distinguish white women otherwise. Their shared whiteness with white men is what ends up mattering; being a woman knocks off a few points off of their overall preference for Trump, but it does nothing to bring them into a coalition with people of color. Here, the intersectional high ground white women can claim over white men is about as legitimate as 40-49 year old whites scolding 60-69 year old whites for liking Trump just a little more than they do.


One takeaway from all of this is that the overwhelming majority of our demographic analysis is painfully simplistic. What I've done here is more sophisticated than what we usually see, and even this was an extremely limited effort. A more ambitious analysis would look at how multiple demographic dimensions - race, age, gender, income, and so on - all combine in unique points of intersection with unique political tendencies. Doing this with two genders, four races, five age groups, and six income brackets would leave me with 240 data points to analyze, and I don't do that kind of work for free. It is, nevertheless, the bare minimum of what anything resembling an adequate intersectional demography would have to involve.

A more important point, however, is that once you start digging into the way various forms of identity intersect, the usual simplifications that popular demographic analysis deals in end up obscuring as much as they reveal. It's fine to talk about the role that boomers and white men play in supporting Trump, but not if this erases the role of middle-aged black voters in opposing Trump, or if it masks the complicity of white women.

This kind of simplification isn't the only problem with what passes for identitarian demographic analysis, but it's one of the most pernicious and egregious - and if we're going to do this, we should at least get it right.
Why Kevin Drum thinks that Millennials are dupes - 9/21/16
Kevin Drum, a progressive blogger also of Mother Jones, recently wrote an article blaming Bernie Sanders for millennials’ distaste for Hillary Clinton. If Sanders hadn’t pointed out that Clinton was in the pocket of Wall Street, Drum argued, she would not have lost millennial support. By making this argument, Kevin Drum is supporting Donald Trump. Since millennials like Bernie Sanders...Drum is pushing millennials away from the Democratic Party.
This passage, from Nathan J. Robinson's latest, works as an effective rebuttal to the supposedly pragmatic logic of Clinton apologetics - but I think it actually cuts even deeper than that.

Writers like Drum think that instead of telling the truth (or what we think is the truth), we should try to anticipate how our audience will respond to various talking points, and then game out our response accordingly. If this means not telling the truth, so be it. This, as discourse gamers see it, is being "pragmatic" and "savvy", and it's usually set in contrast to the naivete and self-indulgent piety of people who think that we should just tell the truth.

The problem, as Robinson points out, is that discourse gaming often even fails by purely pragmatic standards. Here, Drum thinks that he is cleverly engineering a Clinton victory by attacking her critics - but by alienating potential allies, it seems just as likely that he's contributing to her defeat. Speaking generally, Drum thinks he has a handle on the discourse politics at work here, and thinks that he's savvy enough to game them; but for whatever reason, he's getting them wrong, and advancing the very outcome that he thinks he's working to avoid.

To this, I'll just add that the there's probably a good reason why discourse gamers overestimate their competence: hubris.

It is not, after all, as if Kevin Drum thinks that anyone who hears criticism of Clinton is going to vote Trump. That's obviously untrue, since Drum himself heard what Sanders had to say, and simply found it unpersuasive. What Drum actually thinks is that while he can handle frank and open criticism, other people can't. This is always a foundational assumption of discourse gaming: everyone else has to be shepherded and manipulated into conclusions that we were able to reach through basic judgment and reasoning.

When you have this kind of condescending view of everyone else's intelligence, you're obviously going to then proceed to make all kinds of stupid mistakes when you're trying to manipulate their reactions. Here, the same hubris that inclines Drum to think of Millennials as dupes also keeps him from realizing that they might object to this. It reminds me of nothing so much as a pickup artist who thinks of a woman as a "target" who can be "gamed" - and who also thinks that she won't notice. Both approaches routinely fail, and for many of the same reasons.

Some points on Marx and ageism - 9/16/16
Recently, and occasionally in response to some of my recent writing on ageism, I've received some feedback generally suggesting a tension such critiques and standard class analysis. This general objection takes a couple of different forms. One reader, for instance, insists that "Bourgeois Boomers exercise power over working class Millennials. Attributing class power to age is dangerous for the left." Similarly, David Kaib suggests that "class as a historical actor makes sense in a way generations doesn't." Roger Bellin, meanwhile, dismisses "this generation-cohort stuff" as "completely fake social science".

In response to this, I'd argue that Marxism stipulates temporal dynamics which have direct and necessary implications for both historical cohort and age. A materialist conception of history, for example, will describe various stages of economic development that a given society passes through - and these stages will be generally sequential, mapping roughly onto a succession of historical cohorts. The particulars of these cohorts will of course be historically contingent, but as with classes, they are defined by specific relationships with the means of production.

Trivially, for instance, we could talk about a "feudal generation", defined as the cohort born in a society dominated by a feudal economy, and oppose that to a "capitalist generation", similarly defined. Such generations, so defined in relation to certain regimes of production, are just as real as any class - in fact, they are mostly just a different way of talking about groups of classes, with "capitalist generation" conveying the same information as "the proletariat and the bourgeoisie".

The advantage with this way of talking about Marxism is that historical cohorts allows us to contemplate age dynamics associated with the material progress of history. For instance, consider this famous passage from Marx's Manifesto:
The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society...All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away...
Note that the relations of society that capitalism sweeps away here are not merely feudal - they are definitively ancient. They are necessarily associated with age cohorts preceding the capitalist generation. Thus the sequentiality of various stages of economic history necessarily implies conflicts that will be generationally inflected. This point will presumably be most relevant during stages of revolutionary transition; more significantly, it establishes the general (and I think obvious, though evidently controversial) point that class struggle, proceeding forwards through time, will have historical dimensions that end up mapping onto age.

Such temporal dynamics emerge not just over the broad course of history, but within the quotidian operation of capitalism as well. Indeed, Steve Keen argues that this temporal conception of capitalism was one of Marx's great insights: capitalists, he notes,
in general ignore processes which take time to occur, and instead assume that everything occurs in equilibrium...[but] the process Marx describes was based on an accurate view of the overall structure of the economy...
Once we attend to the fact that capital accumulation, for example, is a process that takes place over time, it's easy to see how the old have economic advantages over the young sewn into the very fabric of the material economy. Are these advantages decisive? Of course not. Are they irrelevant to a discussion of the various factors that contribute to power and oppression? Nope. As with any such analysis, ageism needs to be understood with all of the usual considerations of proportion and priority at hand, but the role of such dynamics in Marxist theory cannot simply be dismissed or ignored.
"Both sides do it" is a reactionary defense of ageism - 9/15/16
Earlier today, Mother Jones Editor-in-Chief Clara Jeffery openly avowed her hatred of an entire generation:

Understandably, a lot of progressives, who have historically opposed bigotry against oppressed communities, took issue with this. In one pretty straightforward post, for example, Atrios related Jeffery's ageist rhetoric to its more familiar expressions ("Kids Today," " of [the] lawn") and noted that she'd evidently misread the very poll she was quoting. It doesn't take much more than that to point out the problems with what she said - the case is fairly open-and-shut.

Enter, however, Kevin Drum:
Atrios is upset because he doesn't like criticism of young people. Why? Beats me. As near as I can tell, millennials don't actually attract any more abuse than any other age cohort. I'm not sure why they should be any more immune to criticism than anyone else.
Drum changes his mind

Set aside the crass rhetorical deck-stacking here ("criticism" vs. "abuse") and Drum's defense is clear: ageism is okay because both sides do it. Clara Jeffery can't be criticized for hating young people because hatred of Boomers also exists. But what I find striking about this is that for Drum, just a few months back, both-sides-do-it was no defense of ageism:
Bruenig's tweets were nasty, apparently unfounded, and a bit two-faced (charging Walsh with "ageism" followed by insulting Tanden as "geriatric").
If Drum actually took his own both-sides-do-it rule seriously, we would expect him to waive off Bruenig's comment and ridicule those who refuse to do so as "upset". But instead, Drum decries the remark as "nasty" and an "insult", and adds:
This is the kind of thing that I'd normally call a non-firing offense, but only if the offender agrees there's a problem and promises to reign it in. The risk of having an employee like this go completely ballistic at some point and write something either libelous or just plain repellent is too great. 
This is infinitely stronger than the mild disapproval Atrios posted. And Bruenig, at least, was responding to the specific ageist comment Drum quotes earlier in his piece ("barely shaven") - this would make his reaction even more justified, if the both-sides-do-it rule held. Jeffery, meanwhile, is simply reacting to a poll in a news report, and one that she evidently misread.

"Reverse ageism" does not exist

It's tempting to say this is just a case of Drum defending his employer - but that just underlines the ageist power dynamic at work here. Boomers are far more likely than Millennials to be employers, which means that these conflicts-of-interest will usually play out in their favor. Even Boomers who aren't employers will tend to have more professional power for Millennials, which means that age-solidarity will also play in their advantage as well. Obviously, Jeffery can say almost whatever she likes about young people, she has few professional consequences to worry about, and she can rely allies to defend her who, like Drum, have aged into large platforms. Younger people, meanwhile, can count on the exact opposite: powerful professional retaliation, both from employers and from people like Drum. Age solidarity is of little help to Millennials, since their young colleagues are typically just as powerless.

And that's the deeper critique of Drum's both-sides-do-it rhetoric. Even if accept that moral equivalence, Drum clearly applies it selectively, using it to exonerate Boomers while ignoring it in his criticism of the young. But if we accept the standard progressive premise that oppression is prejudice plus power, then even a "both-sides-do-it" rule applied consistently would be grossly reactionary, a kind of "reverse-ageism" defense that draws a false moral equivalence between two very different political situations. Both sides don't have giant corporate media platforms, and both sides don't face draconian professional consequences in these intergenerational conflicts. Jeffery's hatred of the young is the bigotry of privilege, and any progressive worthy of the name should condemn it.
Young people hate democracy, prefer Clinton to Trump - 8/29/16
Michael J. Totten, in World Affairs, makes a puzzling argument about kids these days that turns on two distinct claims:
1. "each generation currently alive is more authoritarian than older generations—with young Millenials the least democratic of all" 
2. "Trumpism (and Bernie Sanders-ism) are but the [parochial] American symptoms of a global phenomenon: the astonishing rise of illiberal movements of the far right and far left."
Much of this, of course, conforms quite neatly to a liberal narrative that's gained prominence in the past year. On one hand, we have so-called horseshoe theory: the notion that the right and left are just two sides of the same authoritarian coin, while centrist liberalism is the only truly democratic ideology. On the other hand, we're told that it is the wizened pragmatic olds who have best grasped this essential truth, while young people are naively susceptible to the temptations of radical authoritarian idealism.

Still, it seems to me like there's at least one major problem with all of this:

For some reason, it is our young authoritarians who most prefer Hillary Clinton, and our old liberal democrats who most strongly support Donald Trump. How is this happening? As far as I can tell, there are two major possible explanations:
1. The Hitler Youth theory is essentially wrong - voter preference trends prove that it is the old, not the young, who tend to prefer the authoritarians. This is why they prefer Trump to Clinton, and it is also why they preferred Clinton to Sanders. 
2. Horseshoe theory is essentially wrong - it's just garbage rhetoric from centrists who try to lump in all of their opponents together with Jonah Goldberg "Liberal Fascism!" style left-punching. That's why the same people prefer Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump instead of preferring Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to Hillary Clinton.
In the spirit of moderate centrism, I'd like to suggest that there's truth to both of these perspectives.
Young voters have leverage on Clinton, and they should use it - 7/6/16
In 2008, Obama won 66% of voters under 30. In 2012, he won 60%. Today, Hillary Clinton's numbers look like this:

This is a potential catastrophe for Clinton. It's one that she's been aware of since 2008 and that she's spent the past several years preparing for. She's tried pandering to youth culture, criticizing young women for being unsatisfactory feminists, pretending that she doesn't need the youth vote, guilt-tripping them, and simply pretending that she already has their votes.

And now that none of this has worked, we're seeing what Hillary Clinton does as her absolute last resort: she actually advocates the policies that voters are demanding from her.

Make no mistake: Clinton's proposal to offer free tuition for students with household incomes under $125k is grossly inadequate and doomed to fail by design. As Adam Johnson notes, its very complexity makes it a hard sell to the American public - and as Eschaton explains,
Denying government benefits to rich people just makes it that much harder for less than rich people to qualify. You know, eligibility, forms, a bureaucracy to determine that eligibility, etc. The way to not give Donald Trump's kids free college involves increasing his taxes. Then give the kids "free college." Democrats really need to get rid of their obsession with means testing everything. 
That's why Bernie Sanders insisted on making free tuition universal, and that's why young voters should, too. But they shouldn't stop there. However meager it is, Clinton's tuition proposal is proof that young voters have leverage over her - and they should use it to demand as much as they possibly can. Clinton and her surrogates are going to spend the rest of this campaign making variations on the same arguments that they've made all along: that she doesn't need the youth vote, that young people owe her their vote, that young people are already voting for her and you should, too. Don't buy it. Demand more.
Notes on ageism, Pt. II: On the objections - 6/28/16
This is the second of a three part series. The first, "You can't have capitalism without ageism," is here.

In the first part of this series, I described a mechanism of capitalist wealth distribution that is fundamentally ageist. Because capitalism ties wealth to labor opportunities that only emerge over time, older people will have more opportunities to earn wealth than other people. This is not a particularly obscure or complicated insight; the only real questions is whether it has appreciable effects on economic outcomes, and whether we should do anything to mitigate those effects. It seems clear to me that the answer to both of these questions is "yes" - here are some standard objections, and why they're wrong.

1. Old people are poor - they are the ones who need state assistance.

This either/or framing obscures the actual state of affairs, which is that inequality of opportunity on the labor market hurts the old and the young. This problem is directly reflected in median household incomes when we break them down by age:

Obviously, since the very old and the very young cannot work, capitalism guarantees an economy where neither will be able to earn much money. If you want a capitalist economy that also compensates for inequalities of opportunity, then, you will need to additional mechanisms that distribute money towards the very old and the young.

When we look at net wealth (rather than income), we see that this is already (if inadequately) taking place for the very old. This is largely because we have things like "savings" and "interest" - financial mechanisms that disproportionately benefit older people - as well as dedicated programs like Medicare and Social Security, among other things. In the absence of these, the elderly would certainly be in the same position as the very young, with no opportunity to control a share of the wealth. Instead, what clearly happens is that the totality of these mechanisms somewhat offset the opportunity costs of old age, while doing relatively little to help the very young.

Any capitalist economy that aspires towards justice will compensate for the inequality of opportunity faced by the very old and the very young. This obviously means redistribution from those with the most opportunities for income, who will tend to be in the middle of the curve.

2. But there are other poor people too because of other reasons.

Again, this objection is not a counterpoint - it's just an additional consideration. For instance, on top of ageism, our economy is also overrun with rampant problems of racism, and there are all kinds of ways that this problem should also be addressed: through affirmative action programs, for example, or reparations, or other redistributive programs that disproportionately benefit people of color. Alternatively, you could make radical changes to our economy that would ameliorate many of these problems at the same time - such as abolishing private property and placing the means of production in the hands of the proletariat, for example.

None of this contradicts the narrow point that if you are going to have capitalism you have to somehow compensate for its systematic ageism. And this will generally take the form of redistributing wealth from high income earners to the very old and the very young.

3. Young people don't need income because their parents take care of them.

Ultimately, this objection depends upon all kinds of philosophical / ideological premises about human nature (when do we become entitled to democratic agency and our share of the commonwealth?) that seem difficult to defend on pluralistic grounds, but one doesn't need to take on such edge cases to see how far away we currently are from anything even remotely defensible.

For example, as a matter of settled law, we already agree in the United States that anyone who is at least 18 years old has a right to vote. Yet as noted in Part I, inequality of opportunity under capitalism means that 18-year-olds do not even have the chance to participate in our democracy as equals: they necessarily have less income, which means that they have less wealth, which means that they have less to invest in political activism. For the sake of equal democratic representation alone, it would seem reasonable for our economic system to compensate young people in full for the built-in disadvantages they face under capitalism.

If (like me) you begin with the premise that everyone has an equal right to the commonwealth, it seems to follow trivially that even babies are entitled to their fair share. Whether that share should be held in escrow, allocated to legal guardians, or distributed in some other way is a separate question; however, one doesn't need to tackle these questions to accept that by the age of 18 some kind of redistribution is probably in order.

4. It's okay to have an economy that systematically discriminates against the old and young since everyone gets to be privileged middle-agers at some point, too.

This isn't a line of reasoning that we would accept in any different context: ordinarily, we don't excuse temporary injustices just because they are temporary, or because they may be compensated for at some point. But more fundamentally this problem runs into the basic problem touches upon in Part I. On a level democratic playing field, would young and old people consent to this economic arrangement? We can never know, because the arrangement is already in place, creating an unlevel playing field.

This argument also faces the minor complication of being factually untrue. Some people die long before they get to experience the privilege of their high-income years, and even more people die before they reach the austerity of old age. The way that our economy is arranged effects everyone differently, based not just on how old they happen to be at any given moment, but on how long they live. The "that's just how the lifecycle goes" defense doesn't take this into account.
Notes on ageism, Pt. I: You can't have capitalism without ageism -
Even the most radical capitalists typically* accept equality of opportunity as a prerequisite of social justice. It's the form of egalitarianism that reactionaries are generally okay with, because it's mostly hypothetical - to be distinguished from "equality of outcomes", EG substantive equality. Thus no less a seminal capitalist than Milton Friedman insists that
Equality of opportunity, like personal equality, is not inconsistent with liberty; on the contrary, it is an essential component of liberty... Not birth, nationality, color, religion, sex, nor any other irrelevant characteristic should determine the opportunities that are open to a person - only his abilities. (Free to Choose, 132)
Necessarily, it seems, capitalism distributes these opportunities over time. No one somehow gets all of the job offers and contract proposals that they will ever receive all at once - instead, our opportunities are spread out over the course of years and decades. Of course, this means that the benefits of these opportunities will also be spread out over the course of one's life, which is a major reason why young people are generally poorer than old people.

So while one can argue that this economic arrangement is optimal, or inevitable, or necessary, one cannot argue that it treats all age groups equally. It distributes opportunities in such a way that older people will have had more of them than younger people, which guarantees that the latter will always have less power and privilege. Tying income to the emergence of labor opportunities in a market economy obviously engineers a society where wealth will tend to accumulate with age. The trend here is well-documented and one that everyone intuitively understands:

This wealth distribution has all kinds of obvious and completely predictable consequences. For instance, here are the people who fund our politics:

And here are the people who get elected to office:

It's easy enough to blame the disproportionately meager representation of the young on participation issues (voting turnout and such), but there are a few obvious problems with this. First, we usually insist that everyone has the responsibility to ensure a representative Congress - this is not just the burden of groups seeking their own representation, but a shared burden placed by our basic commitment to a pluralistic democracy. Second, the liberal-left in particular has always acknowledged and resisted the effects of economic inequality on democratic representation. The older age groups who, because of their wealth, are also the most powerful political donors obviously have dramatic advantages in securing representation, but this is not something that we should celebrate or passively tolerate.

Certainly age-based income inequality has all kinds of additional and profound material consequences that prove catastrophic for younger Americans, but I draw special attention to the political consequences because they make particularly vivid problems with the most common justifications for ageism, which I'll run through in the next part of this series. For now, suffice to say that ageism is real, it is a direct consequence of the way that capitalism ties income to the labor market, and it has a dramatic and distorting effect on democratic representation in the US.

* Granted, this is beginning to change at the bleeding edge of bourgeois apologetics. As the relationship between soaring wealth inequality and vanishing opportunities becomes increasingly obvious, capitalists are blazing new rhetorical trails. Thus we have insane Objectivists like Yaron Brook openly insisting that inequality of opportunity would "violate everybody's rights", though the more common move is to take issue, like Don Watkins, with those "who go around advocating equality of opportunity" but who are actually "destroying opportunities". The ideal of equal opportunity will probably demand lip service from capitalists for the foreseeable future - even as they continue their efforts to destroy it.
The Sanders youth vote and the ratchet effect - 4/26/16
Despite the visible and enthusiastic support from the left Bernie Sanders has received throughout his campaign, he has also faced a familiar genre of left-flank criticism. The soft critique maintains that the Sanders campaign is at best irrelevant, a symptom of a much deeper left movement that would exist with or without him. The hard critique maintains that his campaign is actually politically counterproductive for the left, since Sanders functions as a "sheepdog" who will ultimately channel leftist energy towards Clinton's campaign.

I think there's some truth to both of these positions, but surely neither holds for every voter. If we're assessing his net impact on American politics, the question is whether those considerations outweigh any positive contributions he's made to building the left; we have to do a cost-benefit analysis, rather than simply pointing at costs and concluding that they're dispositive. And some of those benefits, the Washington Post suggests, are extraordinary:
"...He's moving a generation to the left," Della Volpe said of the senator from Vermont. "Whether or not he's winning or losing, it's really that he's impacting the way in which a generation — the largest generation in the history of America — thinks about politics."
Della Volpe cautions that it's impossible to predict how millennials' views will shift in the future, but people change parties only rarely after about age 30, researchers have found.
That latter point is crucial, because one's early experiences don't just ratchet in a party preference - they ratchet in a whole way of thinking about and relating to politics. Right now, what young people all around America are learning is that social democratic policies are not just preferable, but plausible, and in fact almost within reach; that "socialism" is not a word they need to run away from; that liberal Democrats are not only unreliable allies, but often a major obstacle to their aspirations; and that left political campaigns are uphill battles for ideals that terrible people will dismiss as radical and unrealistic. A substantial body of evidence suggests that they will carry these lessons with them for the rest of their lives.

Compare that to the alternative: if Sanders had not run, there are plenty of young people who would have learned the exact opposite lessons. We have some significant data on this. As of October 16 of last year, here are who Sanders voters were calling their second choice:

These numbers would likely be somewhat different drilled down to voters under 30, but other indicators suggest that faction of young voters who might have considered another candidate is substantial. For example, YouGov / Economist suggests that Sanders got a 10-point bump among young voters between October 12 (36%) and November 9 (46%). That just happens to span the month when Joe Biden dropped out of the race; Biden, incidentally, was winning 12% of the Millennial vote.

Instead of supporting any of these relatively centrist candidates, advocating their neoliberal policies, and rationalizing their establishmentarian affiliation, these young Sanders supporters have spent their formative first year in politics arguing against such voters. This possibility was always latent in their politics, but it needed the right candidate to catalyze it, to give young people a viable alternative that they could rally around. There is no reason to believe this would have happened without Sanders, and every reason to believe that this impact on American politics will resonate for generations to come.
The privilege of #NeverHillary's aging critics - 4/2/16
Earlier this week, Susan Sarandon spelled out a variation on the standard argument against lesser-evil voting. Though she put it in (self-consciously) melodramatic terms, the two basis premises were both there:
1. Lesser-evil voting guarantees that Democrats will continue their rightward drift, maintaining a destructive and oppressive status quo ("it's dangerous to continue thinking that we can continue the way we are")
2. If losing this election upended that status quo and forced a radical shift to the left among Democratic candidates (if it would "bring the revolution"), the long-term decrease in suffering would be worth the short-term increase in suffering.
Setting aside Sarandon's rhetorical flourishes, it's worth noting that the #NeverHillary argument is really just a delayed gratification argument. It advocates a net reduction in destruction, suffering and oppression by putting an end to a Democratic status quo that, over the long-term, would be worse for everyone than a single Republican administration. This is the exact opposite of a "tolerance for human sacrifice", as Michelle Goldberg puts it in her critique of #NeverHillary voters. If Sarandon is right, it is in fact liberals like Goldberg who wants to exact a greater human cost over the long term.

Here, I just want to make the simple point that there's a demographic with a powerful, privileged incentive to reject this logic: olds.

Old people have no direct personal stake in long-term political outcomes. They have the luxury of only having to worry about what happens in the short term. They don't have to worry about what happens over the span of decades if you keep voting for increasingly right-wing Democrats, because most of them will either be dead or enjoying a comfortable retirement. They have almost nothing to gain by using their votes to discipline the Democrats into running better candidates, because that is a long-term political project that doesn't yield them immediate advantages.

When olds like Joan Walsh and Michael Tomasky lecture young people for worrying about their future, they are doing this from a position of absolute privilege. For them, a Hillary Clinton presidency is acceptable, because they get all of the advantages and none of the disadvantages. They get low energy prices that come from Clinton's middling climate-change incrementalism, and none of the droughts, rising oceans, and global instability that we'll see by the end of the century. They can tell young black people that their votes don't matter, because olds won't be around to see the devestation wrought to black communities by Clintonian economic governance; olds will, however, get the nice short-term bump in their 401(k) that comes when Hillary inflates the next bubble. They can tell young women that their fights for childcare and family leave are overhyped, because the boomers have already sent their last children to college.

Young people have no choice: they have to play the long game. Some of them may decide that the grim future which lesser-evil voter guarantees them just isn't acceptable. They might even conclude that it would be preferable to endure four years of a Republican administration if it means that Democrats nominate an acceptable candidate the next time around. This calculation is debatable, but it's absolutely ridiculous for olds that #NeverHillary voters are trying to increase oppression and suffering. That analysis only makes sense if you have the privilege that old people have: the privilege of not caring about the future.
Five demographic arguments for Bernie Sanders - 3/29/16
Clinton began the Democratic primaries with slight-to-significant leads across most demographic categories. Over the past year - even as the media has clung to that narrative - all of those leads have almost entirely evaporated. Here is a quick rundown of the state of the polls today; all of this data was taken from Reuters on March 25.


Hillary Clinton's base of support is now largely men, and Sanders is supported by a majority of women.


Clinton maintains a significant lead among black Americans, driven entirely by the preference of older black Americans; black Millennials, however, prefer Sanders 59-31. Meanwhile, Sanders has built leads among Hispanics and other people of color, while maintaining a slight lead among white Americans.


Clinton is the candidate of straight voters. Sanders, by significant percentages, is the clear preference of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and other orientations.


Clinton is the candidate of the rich, winning clear majorities with Americans who make $75,000 or more. Both candidates are effectively tied within the margin of error among Americans who make between $50-75k, and Sanders is the candidate of the poor, gaining slim majorities with voters who make $50k or less.


And finally, the most important demographic divide of this election: age. The story remains the same as it's always been. Sanders is the candidate of the young, winning an enormous majority of all voters under 30; Clinton is the candidate of the old, with support generally increasing as voters get older.

The story here is clear: one can only call Clinton an advocate of the powerless by ignoring women, Hispanics and other non-black voters of color, ~30% of black Americans, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and other non-straights, the young, and the poor. The narrative being aggressively advanced by writers like Tomasky and Goldberg - that Sanders is the candidate of privilege - can only be made by a stunning degree of demographic gerrymandering that ignores the dramatic sea changes in preference that have taken place since the beginning of the campaign.
Clintonites are kicking young people out of the Obama coalition - 3/22/16
I understood that the Democratic Party owes its occupancy of the White House to the Obama coalition: African Americans, Latinos, Asians, LGBT folks, and single women... Somehow Sanders doesn’t seem to see that. - Joan Walsh
In case you missed it, there's a glaring omission here: young people. This is not an aberration:

  • Here's Jannell Ross in the Washington Post identifying "each element of the so-called 'Obama Coalition'" as "non-white voters and progressive whites" - as opposed to the "young, white, liberal voters" who support Sanders.
  • Here's Mark Sappenfield in The Christian Science Monitor arguing that "Clinton’s victory Saturday suggests that Obama’s coalition might not be a fleeting phenomenon connected only to him" - a coalition of "minorities and, to a lesser degree, women".
  • Here's Clay Shirky, in a much-cited Tweetstorm, arguing that "Clinton is not re-running her '08 campaign. She is re-running Obama's '08 campaign" by winning "the Obama coalition," by which he means a "black-white progressive coalition."
  • And here's Sady Doyle, insisting that "the lesson of the Obama coalition" is that you can win "without white guys."
Obviously voters of color were crucial to Obama's victories and will remain a central Democratic constituency for the foreseeable future. But the same goes for young people. Obama won an extraordinary two-thirds of young people in 2008 and sixty percent of them in 2012. Until recently, this has always been understood as one of his major achievements - especially since young voters, including young voters of color, represent the future of the party. Standard analyses from Obama's various victories:

  • "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton have divided the Democratic Party by race, income and education, but there is no demographic indicator that sorts the Democratic vote as starkly as age. If you voted in one of the Democratic primaries or caucuses, your age probably determined your vote: The older you are, the more likely you were to vote for Clinton, and the younger you are, the more likely you were to vote for Obama." - NPR 4/30/2008
  • "They were the initial cheerleaders of Barack Obama’s candidacy who stuck with him on the long slog to Nov. 4. And on Election Day, young people voted overwhelmingly to send him to the White House while exceeding their 2004 turnout levels by at least 2.2 million, according to researchers who track the voting habits of youth." - New York Times, 11/5/08
  • "Obama’s campaign...aimed exclusively at the key constituencies that make up Obama’s coalition: African Americans, Hispanics, young voters and women (particularly those with college degrees.)" - Washington Post, 11/7/12
  • "Romney lost embarrassingly among young people, African-Americans and Hispanics, a brutal reminder for Republicans that their party is ideologically out of tune with fast-growing segments of the population." - CNN 11/7/12
Supporters of Clinton who routinely invoke Obama's coalition while omitting young people are blatantly rewriting history - and it's easy to see why. This is more of what Matt Bruenig called "get-off-my-lawnism": the tendancy of Clinton supporters (particularly the ageing ones) to attack young voters. Old people are mad that young people reject their politics, and they're embarrassed that youth culture rejects their pandering as lame. To save face, they've got to pretend that Hillary Clinton isn't abandoning a key bloc in Obama's legacy, and that means pretending that young people were never a part of the Obama coalition in the first place.

This isn't just ridiculous and inaccurate - it's reckless. Walsh, in her article, crows that Clinton beat Sanders "even among black millennials" 61-31 among nine Super Tuesday states. Nationally, however, that number effectively reverses:

Black Voters 18-29, Reuters

And while Walsh cites an article on as evidence of support among black youth for Clinton, the article actually makes the opposite case: "Black millennials aren’t as swayed by Clinton’s largely successful attempts to connect with Black voters across generations." Political scientist Michael Dawson explains,
I think that generally when you look at Sanders support, the country is not working well for young people, particularly for young Black people right now; they’re looking more toward a candidate who will shake things up significantly.
This weakness of the Clinton coalition underscores an obvious point: if you care about the future of the party, you have to care about young people. You can't even sustain a multiracial party if you abandon young voters of color. If you're an older American, you have the privilege to not care about this: you can afford to sacrifice the future for a short-term win. But by writing young voters out of the party's past, Clinton supporters like Walsh are also writing us out of its future.
A word for young leftists - 3/16/16
The much-noted age divide among Democrats suggests a bright future for the American left - but it also suggests that tonight's losses for Bernie Sanders will come as the first real political defeat many young voters have ever experienced.

I don't think it should be understated how personally traumatic this can be. When you live in a democracy, you are constantly conditioned to believe that your political problems, whatever they are, can ultimately be redressed through elections. In that light, when you lose, this is society telling you "no" in the most final and absolute way imaginable. All of this is ideology instilled to make people believe that elections are their only form of political agency, and this is untrue; but the lie is extraordinarily powerful, and its implications, for the losers, are devastating. Psychologically, in fact, this crisis is identical in structure to the so-called Oedipus complex, and with similarly shattering consequences: as Freud put it, "we cannot fail to be struck by the similarity of the process of civilization to the libidinal development of the individual."

I believe that the ways that we work through our uniquely brutal first encounter with political frustration will lay down a foundation for how we meet such challenges for the rest of our lives. The temptation is to turn to cynicism, or nihlism, or to delusional piety; the challenge is to maintain our hopes for the world that could be, while fighting in the world that is. And I've always felt that Nietzsche, for all his failings, captured that challenge better than anyone - so I'll conclude with this passage, which has always given me courage.

*   *   *
"Indeed, I know your danger. But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throw away your love and hope." 
"You still feel noble, and the others too feel your nobility, though they bear you a grudge and send you evil glances. Know that the noble man stands in everybody's way. The noble man stands in the way of the good too: and even if they call him one of the good, they thus want to do away with him. The noble man wants to create something new and a new virtue. The good want the old, and that the old be preserved. But this is not the danger of the noble man, that he might become one of the good, but a churl, a mocker, a destroyer." 
"Alas, I knew noble men who lost their highest hope. Then they slandered all high hopes. Then they lived impudently in brief pleasures and barely cast their goals beyond the day. Spirit too is lust, so they said. Then the wings of their spirit broke: and now their spirit crawls about and soils what it gnaws. Once they thought of becoming heroes: now they are voluptuaries. The hero is for them an offense and a fright." 
"But by my love and hope I beseech you: do not throw away the hero in your soul! Hold holy your highest hope!"
Is gender driving the Clinton vs. Sanders generation gap? Nope. - 2/8/16
The pundits have been largely fixated on the roles that gender and race are playing in the Democratic primaries, but the Matt Bruenig Election Team has had our eye on one key demographic divide from the beginning: age. Clinton's catastrophic 14% showing among young voters in Iowa proves that the generation divide is by far her greatest challenge - and one that she has, despite her best efforts, been completely unable to overcome. Here for example is how that gap compared to Iowa's gender gap:

Still, when we make this sort of comparison, we often hear the same question: how much of the age gap reflects variable gender populations among different age groups? Since there many more old women than old men, it's entirely possible that the disproportionate number of olds favoring Clinton could actually reflect something about gender driving support for the candidates rather than age.

Fortunately, a new Reuters polls breaks down support for the candidates by age and gender, allowing us to drill into this a bit more. By averaging male and female support for teach candidate in each age group, we can factor out the effect of differing gender populations; this number gives us the odds that a person of a given age will support a given candidate, regardless of their gender.

A few significant trends stand out:
  • The obvious split is between voters under and over 30. That's when Sanders' 30.6 point lead on Clinton reverses into a 20.8 point deficit.
  • If you are not in the lead, your numbers hover within the margin of error of around 27%. Sanders' support deteriorates as voters get older, but the difference isn't statistically significant.
  • Similarly, Clinton's lead fluctuates within the margin of error of around 47%; it's hard to read too much into those changes.
  • Sanders is significantly more polarizing than Clinton among different age groups, primarily because of his extraordinary support among younger voters.
Of course, these numbers may still be overdetermined by other considerations, particularly economic factors - but this should be enough to put to rest the theory that gender is what's driving the generation gap.