Rasmussen is out with a new poll that is frankly just devastating for Gov. Walker. Just devastating. We’ll have a full write up momentarily. (Update: Here’s our write-up.) But the thing that stuck out to me was the age distribution. We’ve all gotten used to polls in recent years that show Democrats with their strongest support among younger voters and Republicans with their best numbers among older voters. But I think most of us sort of implicitly figure this is significantly tied to what we call social issues — gay rights, sexual politics, racial politics, etc. Not exclusively but that’s where the young / old division in our politics is.But when you look at this poll the pro-union / anti-union division turns heavily on age too. The younger votes have a far more progressive views on public employees, unions, collective bargaining and so on. That’s not great news in general for Republicans. But for those of us with somewhat longer political memories this is actually pretty different from the way things used to be in the ’80s and ’90s. Back then it was older voters who tended to have more Democratic views on bread and butter economic issues. And it was younger voters who had more libertarian inclinations.
There’s a fairly straightforward explanation for this. Back then older voters had formative political experiences from the 30s through the 50s. Today they’re based in the 60s through the 80s. Straightforward doesn’t mean it’s accurate. But I think that’s at least part of the explanation.
There’s an argument from conservatives that this doesn’t represent a trend. It’s just that as you get married and have kids and have to handle a family budget, you develop more conservative economic values. And I think there’s definitely something to that argument. But again, I don’t think history really bears it out. At least not to a degree that nullifies the broader public opinion trend.
In any case, we’ve seen enough polls at this point to know that Gov. Walker is really getting crushed in the court of public opinion. But it’s this age division — not only cultural and social issues but on economic ones — that really jumps out to me.