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Generational Gaps in American Politics and Public Life Could Be the Worst They’ve Been in a Decade

Generational Gaps in American Politics and Public Life Could Be the Worst They've Been in a Decade

Op-Ed: Gen Z’s pragmatic politics could be a key to ending polarization

By Bill Chappell, The Daily Sentinel

Jan. 12, 2018

Meredith and Eric Kandel share a laugh at a recent New Year’s Eve party.

While generational divides have become commonplace on both the East and West Coasts in recent years, the latest Pew Research analysis of American opinion finds the gulf between Gen Zers and Baby Boomers to be the steepest it’s been in nearly a decade.

The two generations have grown apart, Pew says, with Baby Boomers by far leading by margins in social issues such as immigration, education, health care and the environment. In politics, the gap is also sizable. In nearly every way where the two political parties compete, Boomers lead Gen Zers.

But there are some significant differences between the generations that may help account for the generational gap.

“The gap is much greater with Boomers than with Gen Zers in three areas: partisanship, political ideology and support for democratic ideals,” Pew said in the report, which is titled “Generational Differences in American Politics and Public Life.”

That trend could change, though, if the nation’s young people are able to bridge the generational divide.

A generational gap

Generational divides exist in every demographic group, Pew points out, but the gap between the two generations is the widest it’s been in a decade.

In April 2015, Pew asked Americans if they identified with the political party in power. Their answers showed that the gap between Gen Z and Boomers was the widest it’s been in nearly a decade, with Gen Zers largely favoring Democratic Party candidates by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.

In 2015, Pew also asked a separate question that asked if people agreed or disagreed with the proposition “Government is best when it governs best” versus “Government is best when it governs least.” Again, Gen Zers were far more likely to disagree with the second statement by 76 percent to 19 percent, while Boomers disagreed by 53 percent to 43 percent.

Similarly, in 2018, Pew asked Gen Zers “How much do you agree or disagree” with “Government is best when it governs least” versus “Government is best when it governs most.”

The gap has narrowed somewhat in just the past year, however, with Gen Zers agreeing slightly less with the statement that government should govern least than they did with

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