Beyond Iowa Nice: The Political Generation Gap

Jul 7, 2016

This year, 2016, marks the first election where there are as many millennials as baby boomers in the U.S. electorate.

River to River's Ben Kieffer kicks off Iowa Public Radio's summer series "Beyond Iowa Nice" by hosting a conversation on the political generation gap. He explores where boomers, gen-xers, and millennials see eye to eye, and where they don’t.  


Iowa State University political analyst Dave Peterson studies voter trends over time. He says a lot can be learned about a generation's political preferences by looking at what happened just before they became eligible to vote.



“The politics of the time that we come of age really sets the foundation of how we’re going to view the political world for the rest of our lives,” says Peterson. 

“That’s easily the most influential time...If it’s an era where one party is flailing or one party is performing badly, we tend to identify with the other party as a result.”

Peterson gives the example of millennials, who tend to skew more liberal. He says this is in part due to the fact that they came of age during the end of the George W. Bush Administration. 

"Seeing Katrina, seeing the Iraq War, seeing problems with the end of the Bush Administration, with the enthusiasm and the hopeful attitude of the Obama campaign... That sets an imprint for what each of the parties is like."

Also joining the conversation: baby boomer Jeff Taylor, millennial Sonia Ashe, founder of the Association of Young Americans, Ben Brown, and Kent Sovern, the director of AARP’s Iowa branch. Together they discuss the issues most important to them, and work to answer the question: Is there common ground among people whose perspectives and experiences are so different?