The Saeculum Decoded
A Blog by Neil Howe
Nov 152012

James Vaughn is a Washington, DC, consultant who specializes in using social media metrics, quantitative tools, and political theory to help clients (good guys only!) assess and improve their reach and influence. He’s a Kennedy School grad and has served with lots of good-government initiatives. I know him through our common affiliation with CSIS.

A couple of days after the election, James sent me the following text and chart, which I am reproducing here as is. Beyond that, I will let him speak for himself. Otherwise, I can only say, I am Neil Howe and I approve of this message…

As someone who incorporates generations theory into my work, I was curious to see how it would predict the actual results of the presidential election. As far back as July 31 of this year, Neil Howe was predicting likely voter preferences by generational cohort. After the election, I compared the results of the exit polls by CNN with Howe’s predictions.

The chart below breaks down the exit polls by age. The first column shows the CNN age group, the percentage of the electorate they comprised, the birth years for this age group, and the generational tag associated with those birth years. The match wasn’t always perfect, but it is close enough for our purposes. CNN had two age charts and I have used a hybrid between the two to make it easier to compare Howe’s predictions with the exit polling.

In the second column, I list Howe’s prediction for how that generation would likely vote. This is taken from his July 31st blog post. The third column is the actual margin of the vote based on the preference expressed in the exit polls. (Columns 4 and 5)

In every case Howe’s predictions closely tracked the exit polling results. The biggest discrepancy was in the Generation X category. Howe predicted First Wave Xers would vote more heavily for Romney than they did. As a first wave Generation Xer, I voted for Obama as did many of my normally more GOP-leaning peers. Our views are more pragmatic about how the fiscal crisis needs to be addressed and put us in Obama’s corner. Howe was spot on with his predictions for Boom and Silent Generations. The outcome for the 65+ category possibly reflects the difference between the 15% preference for Romney being weighed down by the predicted 3% lean for Obama by the G.I. Generation.

The post-election analysis has focused on demographics as destiny with most of the emphasis on the growth in minority populations, but perhaps the greater predictor will be the generational model with the first wave of Generation X serving as the swing demographic in the next presidential election. Political strategists in both parties should add the works of Neil Howe to their reading list as they plan for the next election cycle.

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