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A deeper look at the GOP generation gap

One Republican Party fissure highlighted by today's Washington Post poll is a sharp generational divide on how the Party should operate in a Democratically-controlled Washington and which issues should be at the top of the platform.

Younger Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in the poll are more apt to say they are satisfied with today's political system, less likely to be angry with the policies offered by President Obama (and more likely to say Obama shares their positions on some issues) and are more supportive of working with Democrats in Congress in order to work some GOP ideas into new legislation - a pattern that holds even on the contentious issues of health care reform and energy policy currently under consideration in Congress.

Though that's not to say they've abandoned the GOP. Like their partisan elders, more than nine in 10 GOP-leaners under age 35 say the party shares their issue positions most or some of the time, and they are just as likely as their older counterparts to be enthusiastic or satisfied with the policies offered by congressional Republicans.

The age gap seems at least partly rooted in ideological position. Those age 35 and under are less apt in general to say they are conservative on most political matters, with a particularly sharp difference on social issues. More than four in 10 under age 35 consider themselves liberal (13 percent) or moderate (30 percent) on most social issues, compared with less than three in 10 among older Republican leaners (5 percent liberal, 24 percent moderate).

Combining social and fiscal ideology, nearly a quarter of those under 35 (24 percent) say they are liberal or moderate on social issues while conservative on fiscal matters. Compare that with 18 percent among older Republican leaners (that figure drops to just 13 percent among seniors). Across age groups, those who are socially moderate or liberal and fiscally conservative are far more likely than others to say the party should work with the Democrats rather than working against them.

The age difference in ideology shows most clearly on prioritizing top issues. Those under 35 more apt to say the party should be deemphasizing issues like same-sex marriage and the environment, while more older Republicans say the party isn't doing enough on these matters.

More data on those divisions follows.

Q. Thinking about the Republican Party in general and not just the people in Congress, for each issue area I name, please tell me if you think the party in general puts too much emphasis on the issue, too little emphasis on the issue, or about the right amount?

Same-sex marriage

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     27      32       38
18-34   31      33       32
35-64   29      30       35
65+     18      36       39


       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     23      34       42
18-34   26      34       40
35-64   24      33       42
65+     15      37       44

Second Amendment gun rights

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     16      33       50
18-34   19      37       43
35-64   16      33       50
65+     11      30       55

The environment

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     14      38       47
18-34   13      44       42
35-64   16      38       46
65+     10      32       55


       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     11      44       44
18-34   12      40       47
35-64   11      45       43
65+      8      44       45

Federal spending

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All     11      60       28
18-34   12      57       31
35-64   10      62       27
65+     17      56       25

Illegal immigration

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All      9      61       29
18-34   14      55       31
35-64    8      61       30
65+      6      67       25

The economy and jobs

       Too     Too     Right
       much   little   amount
All      3      60       36
18-34    5      60       35
35-64    2      61       37
65+      2      59       37

By Jennifer Agiesta  |  November 30, 2009; 12:55 PM ET
Categories:  Crosstabs , Republican Party  
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"More than four in 10 under age 35 consider themselves liberal (13 percent)"
First of all, four out of ten is 40%, not 13%, and more than four out of ten is more than forty percent, not 13%. The whole article is filled with gibberish numbers like these.

Posted by: davideconnollyjr | November 30, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse


You missed the "...or moderate (30 percent)..."

Full quote:

"More than four in 10 under age 35 consider themselves liberal (13 percent) or moderate (30 percent) on most social issues, ..."

You just need to read it correctly and not jump to (erroneous) conclusions.

Posted by: Greg S. | November 30, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

. . . what Greg said.
Why must attitude always trump any search for objective truth? We have become a society that chooses sides rather than seeks wisdom. Of course, seeking truth does require that you at least have a modicum of reading skills.

Posted by: ronkeys | November 30, 2009 4:39 PM | Report abuse

Do the numbers for "too little emphasis on the environment" mean "too little toward conserving it," or "too little toward pushing down the barriers, to allow for its destruction"?

Posted by: johnnormansp | November 30, 2009 8:12 PM | Report abuse

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