New population studies indicate that baby boomers and prior generations are poised to lose their throne as the largest voting bloc after this November’s election.
A new study out of the Pew Research Center says that historical patterns of voter turnout by generation suggests the likely end of dominance by boomers and prior generations at the polls because in general, as a generation ages, turnout rises, then hits a peak before it declines.
Last year may have been the boomers’ peak, according to Pew and United States Census Bureau data on populations.
Boomers and their predecessors have dominated general election polls since 1980, according to data from the Census Bureau’s November Current Population Survey Voting Supplement.
In 2012, baby boomers and older adults accounted for 56 percent of total citizens who said that they had voted (those numbers were higher in previous years.)
But since Generation X and millennials have been steadily aging into voting eligibility, they have finally caught up and matched boomers and prior generations as a share of eligible voters in 2012, and this year are expected to outnumber them, according to a Pew analysis of Census Bureau data.
Now the question is, will they actually vote?
Simply because they are eligible does not necessarily mean that millennials and Gen Xers will show up to the polls in numbers necessary to oust the boomers and Silent Generation from their ballot box high horse.
“Although the electorate is increasingly comprised of younger generations, this does not imply that the electorate as a whole is getting younger,” senior Pew researcher Richard Fry reported. “Perhaps more importantly, eligible voters don’t necessarily translate into actual voters — that all depends on who shows up to vote on Election Day.
“Whether millennial and Gen X adults outnumber boomers and other generations in November will hinge on voter turnout.”
But according to the numbers, millennials and Gen Xers don’t have to work as hard this year to match boomers at the polls.
In the 2012 election, for instance, 70 percent of boomer-and-older eligible voters turned up at the polls. This year, that percentage would translate to 68.6 million votes, according to Pew.
Millennials and Gen Xers could match that number of votes with a turnout rate of just 54.5 percent, which is plausible because in 2012, 53.9 percent of millennial and Gen X voters turned out.
In 2004 and 2008, Pew reports that turnout among these generations was even higher, and Fry wrote that it is a “reasonable guess” that millennial and Gen X voters are still on the upswing in terms of turnout rates.
The Silent Generation peaked at 76 percent turnout in the 1992 election and has been declining ever since.
Boomers, who are aged 52 to 70 this year, are due to peak, though its uncertain whether it will be this election or the next. In any case, Pew reports that boomers are due to pass the torch and that this election, no matter the outcome, will “mark the beginning of a new era for U.S. presidential elections.”