The Age Gap in the 2008 Presidential Election
Society, 47(4), 295- 300, August 2010
Patrick Fisher, Ph.D.
Department of Political Science and Public Affairs
The 2008 presidential election suggests a significant realignment among voters entering the electorate, with younger voters deviating considerably from older voters in their partisan preferences. Barack Obama won the vote of those under 30 years old by a 66% to 32% margin and first time voters favored him by an overwhelming margin of 69–30%. The fact that the age gap between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton during the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination contest was also among the largest age gaps in American electoral history suggests that part of the age gap was undoubtedly due to the appeal of Obama with younger Americans. Part of the age gap, however, was also due to the unpopularity of the George W. Bush administration. The strong youth vote for Obama in 2008 was thus both pro-Obama and anti-Bush in nature. The huge age gap in 2008 suggests a split of the electorate along generational lines and the long-term consequences of the age gap appear to overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party. George W. Bush’s unpopular and divisive presidency helped to make the youngest generation of American voters increasingly Democratic in their vote preference. This suggests that if younger Americans follow other generations in keeping the same partisan voting patterns throughout their life, the Democrats are potentially poised to make considerable gains in future elections.