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The not-so-liberal American future


By Michael Medved

Does ideology shape life experience, or does life experience determine ideology? The future direction of American politics depends on our response.

In response to the disappointing results of November’s elections, I have argued that conservatives should take heart from the undeniable aging of the electorate, which will tilt future contests toward Republicans. 2012 exit polls showed Mitt Romney sweeping voters 65 and older in a 12-point landslide, and among all those above age 30 (81 percent of the voting public) the Republican nominee prevailed by a solid margin. President Obama won the overall vote solely on the strength of his crushing 60-to-36 advantage with the 18-to-30 crowd. If official projections prove accurate, low birthrates and rising life expectancy will produce a much higher percentage of elderly Americans in the electorate, conferring a significant edge for conservative candidates in future close elections.

But Democrats hope that young Obama enthusiasts will maintain their overwhelmingly liberal orientation even as they grow older and their life circumstances change. In a provocative piece for New York magazine that calls conservatives “doomed,” Jonathan Chait argues that the president’s support from young voters in the last two election cycles went “beyond the usual reasons—social issues like gay marriage and feminism, immigration policy or Obama’s personal appeal—and suggest a deeper attachment to liberalism. The proclivities of younger voters may actually portend a full-scale sea change in American politics.” He goes on to cite a Pew survey suggesting that “Americans form a voting pattern early in their life and tend to hold to it.”

That conclusion, however, contradicts the evidence of 40 years of exit polls.