Joe Biden 2020 campaign wins Baby Boomers, Silent Generation

May 8, 2019 GMT

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has found a core constituency in the early stages of the 2020 Democratic nomination race: Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.

The gray-haired crowd has flocked to the 76-year-old since he announced his candidacy last month, setting up a generational showdown with Millennials, who are growing in numbers but are far more split in their choice of candidate.

In his early campaign stops, Mr. Biden has sounded like a candidate of an older era, wooing labor unions and the working class, though he insists he’s as liberal as anyone else in the field.


Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said Mr. Biden has rooted his campaign “firmly in a sense of nostalgia that appeals to older voters.”

“Boomers who came of age before Watergate may be the last generation instilled with a sense that government may have its flaws but essentially the system works,” Mr. Murray said. “Most of the Democratic contenders are fighting over who is best positioned to boldly take the party into more progressive territory. Biden, on the other hand, is a link to a time when politics was something you complained about but was largely not a presence in your daily life.”

Mr. Biden is just one of the senior citizens in the race. Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont is 77 and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is 69 though they have both been seen as leading the progressive forces within the Democratic Party.

That’s not to say Mr. Biden has only a limited appeal.

He does garner 26 % support among Democratic primary voters ages 18-29, according to polling released Tuesday by Morning Consult. But Mr. Sanders wins the age group with 34 %.

But among voters 56 and older, Mr. Biden dominates, with 53 %.

William H. Frey, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said Mr. Biden could also benefit because older voters turn out at a greater clip than their younger counterparts.

“Millennials might have technically a bigger voting age population, but when you look at their turnout rate it is much lower,” Mr. Frey said. “From that perspective, Boomers are going to have an outsized influence.”

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Mr. Biden’s support will fade over time, as more and more voters become familiar with Ms. Warren’s inspiring message.

“In contrast, a lot of Biden’s initial support is an electability bubble that will soon be punctured as voters see him in action tripping and falling and quickly realize he’s not our best foot forward,” Mr. Green said.


Analysts expect generational differences to play out in terms of issues.

While Boomers are likely worried about Social Security and the economy, Millennials are asking for cost-free college and a bigger focus on global warming.

The Democratic candidates are scrambling to draw up plans for all of those asks but they’ll have to pick their focuses, which could peg them as champions for one generation or another.

Older voters played a major hand in Hillary Clinton’s primary victory in 2016 over Mr. Sanders. Exit polling showed her winning the 50-plus demographic in early contests in Iowa and South Carolina, putting her on the path to victory.

In the general election, meanwhile, that demographic fueled Mr. Trump’s victory, helping him win states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin the key GOP pickups that swung the election.

Though the lines can be fuzzy, the Pew Research Center says the Silent Generation is generally those born from 1928 to 1945, Boomers were born from 1946 to 1964, Generation X covers 1965 to 1980, and Millennials are from 1981 to 1996.

Whatever the differences in voting turnout for now, Millennials will surpass the Boomers this year in total population, Pew says. And that disparity will only grow as the older folks pass away and Millennials become an even bigger generation because of immigration.