Census Data: Older Virginians Maintain a Significant Influence Over Elections

Oct 23, 2019

Credit MBandman / Creative Commons

Voters will head to the polls next month for General Assembly seats all over Virginia, although not all age groups are expected to participate at the same rates.

According to the Census Bureau, voting age millennials and Gen Xers now outnumber Baby Boomers and older voters in Virginia. But that does not mean they have as much influence. Census numbers also show another interesting trend: People over the age of 45 vote at much higher rates.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says that gives Baby Boomers a kind of influence that no other generation enjoys.

“So we talk about the Baby Boomers so much because they were a phenomenon unto themselves in some ways," Kidd explains. "As they aged, they participated at high levels, and those participation levels stayed pretty high.”

Jeremy Mayer at George Mason University says Virginia tends to be younger than other states. 

“Virginia has a lot of immigrants. Immigrants tend to be younger and tend to have more kids, and those voters with that profile tend to lean Democratic," says Mayer. "So why are the Baby Boomers still dominating? Because that demographic votes, and votes with extraordinary reliability.”

Mayer says he sees a similarity between the victory of Donald Trump in 2016 with the victory of Brexit that same year, two elections where the interest of older voters overwhelmed the interest of younger voters, a phenomenon he calls a “revolution of the elderly.”

Voters in this November’s off-year elections are also expected to be overwhelmingly older, despite the edge that millennials and Gen Xers could have at the ballot box in Virginia.

Credit U.S. Census Bureau

Credit U.S. Census Bureau

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.