Age over youth?  How the ‘grandfather effect’ is shaping world politics

Age over youth? How the ‘grandfather effect’ is shaping world politics


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As millennial and post-millennial voters become the largest group of voters worldwide, Flinders University experts have warned that the ‘grandfather effect’ has seen people from previous generations retain or be elected to office at an advanced age.

This follows a new study of 1,000 young voters which has busted the myth that young voters prefer young political leaders – evidently only a handful of world leaders are under the age of 39.

A political science study found that age (up to 70 and over) and experience won the youth vote, provided the older candidates have left-of-center policies that support younger voters’ positions on social and identity issues.

“While older candidates with left-wing policies were preferred, this was often the case for younger candidates,” says Flinders University Associate Professor Rodrigo Praino, an analyst of electoral behavior in the College of Business , Government and Law.

“We set out to explore why young voters are drawn to older male candidates in more than any advanced western democracy – raising questions about whether there is something ‘different’ about the voting habits of millennials and ex-millennials .”

While a large number of young voters support young leaders running for office – such as Jacinda Adern in New Zealand in 2020 – they can also show strong support for relatively older candidates such as Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in the UK – and even candidates. 80+ years old for example the German Greens MP Hans-Christian Ströbele.

“Our study shows that millennials and post-millennials do not seem to show any kind of intergenerational bias against older candidates,” says Associate Professor Praino.

“In other words, young voters today seem willing to support older candidates, provided their policy positions are in line with what young voters think is important to them.”

Millennials or Gen Y voters born between roughly 1981 and 1996 are now in their 20s and 30s – and ex-millennials (Gen Z) born between 1997 and 2012 are coming into voting power. They follow the Gen X (1965-1980) and Boomer generations, many of whom are retired or retiring.

A Flinders University study shows that, contrary to the descriptive representation literature, young voters are “much more likely to support older candidates if they are aware that these candidates are going to support general left-wing policies,” which says co-author Professor Charlie Lees, now based at the University of London.

“All things being equal, young voters do not prefer younger candidates to older candidates,” he says.

The study sought to understand younger voter turnout and participation in the political process to examine possible increased representation of younger citizens in positions of national power and decision-making.

“Although young voters are often described as disengaged and uninterested in conventional political participation, they are known to be able to mobilize in significant, non-conventional ways,” say the researchers.

The article is published in the International Review of Political Science.

More information:
Charles Lees et al, Young voters, older candidates and policy preferences: Evidence from two experiments, International Review of Political Science (2022). DOI: 10.1177/0192512121139544

Available at Flinders University

Quote: Age over youth? How the ‘grandfather effect’ is shaping world politics (2023, 25 January) retrieved on 25 January 2023 from .html

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