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Age and birtherism

It’s a well known fact that older Americans tend more towards birtherism than younger ones. Why is that? Is it the result of deteriorating mental acuity? Perhaps it is something else.

According to a new study reported in the New York Times, political leaning is correlated with birth year. The explanation is that one’s political attitudes are formed most strongly in their 20’s:

[whites born in 1941] … came of age under Eisenhower, who was popular throughout his presidency. By the time Eisenhower left office in 1961, people born in the early 1940s had accumulated pro-Republican sentiment that would last their entire lifetimes. …

In contrast, people born a decade later – baby boomers – were too young to be influenced much by the Eisenhower years. Childhoods and formative years under Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon left them relatively pro-Democratic.

It is also well documented that birthers tend not to be Democrats.

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47 Responses to Age and birtherism

  1. avatar
    Dave July 10, 2014 at 12:29 pm #

    And yet, the right wing has selected as their patron saint Ronald Reagan, not Eisenhower. This has always baffled me — I don’t know how you could make the case that Reagan was a better President than Eisenhower, and I’ve never seen anyone try. Best explanation I can think of is that it’s embarrassing if your party’s last good President was over 50 years ago.

  2. avatar
    Janny July 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    I was born in 1941 — Republican until I saw the light in the 1960s! I still can’t get over the Republican hero worship of Reagan.

  3. avatar
    Curious George July 10, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    “It is also well documented that birthers tend not to be Democrats.”

    But didn’t birtherism start with Democrats who supported Hillary and had concerns about Obama’s birth narrative? I know one fellow who was a strong Democrat, and now is a rabid birther. It would be interesting to learn how many prominent Birthers started burfing as Democrats.

  4. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 10, 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    While some of the first rabid birthers were PUMAs, I never saw them supporting any democratic positions or policies.

    I once read an article (no idea where) that said that while people generally become more liberal throughout their lives, it isn’t as fast as the movement of the body politic in the same direction so they appear to be becoming more conservative.

    Curious George:
    “It is also well documented that birthers tend not to be Democrats.”

    But didn’t birtherism start with Democrats who supported Hillary and had concerns about Obama’s birth narrative? I know one fellow who was a strong Democrat, and now is a rabid birther.It would be interesting to learn how many prominent Birthers started burfing as Democrats.

  5. avatar
    JPotter July 10, 2014 at 1:55 pm #

    Such a charitable assessment, Doc ;)

  6. avatar
    JPotter July 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    Janny:
    I was born in 1941 — Republican until I saw the light in the 1960s!I still can’t get over the Republican hero worship of Reagan.

    The Republicans finally stopped pretending and shifted drastically in the 60s. Glad you didn’t follow along.

  7. avatar
    CarlOrcas July 10, 2014 at 3:16 pm #

    Dave:
    And yet, the right wing has selected as their patron saint Ronald Reagan, not Eisenhower. This has always baffled me — I don’t know how you could make the case that Reagan was a better President than Eisenhower, and I’ve never seen anyone try. Best explanation I can think of is that it’s embarrassing if your party’s last good President was over 50 years ago.

    The reason the right wing adores Reagan is because he was a better Republican than Eisenhower….in their eyes.

    Eisenhower was fairly apolitical and very unpopular with the Taft wing of the party.

    He left the political heavy lifting to his Vice President – Dick Nixon – and we know how that worked out.

  8. avatar
    Steve July 10, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    From my own unscientific observations, most of my contemporaries (high school classmates and those in the classes a year or two before and after me) are right-leaning (Nobody I know from that time is a birther, as best I can tell, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some were). I guess that’s because my high school and college years coincided with Reagan’s two terms and many of my peers look back at that as a better time.

  9. avatar
    Bonsall Obot July 10, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

    We seem to be exact contemporaries, Steve, and I can state with full confidence that anyone who looks back on that era as “better times” is wearing glasses of a distinctly rosey tint.

  10. avatar
    Comrade Fogovich July 10, 2014 at 9:14 pm #

    My dad was born in 1928. He was a Republican all his life, until George W. Bush. He’s an Obot today. He voted for Obama twice. :D

  11. avatar
    Janny July 10, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    My mother was born in 1916. Republican all her life until she was 90. Then she left the Dark Side and became an Obot!

  12. avatar
    justlw July 10, 2014 at 11:32 pm #

    My mom was born in ’21; she supported Reagan as governor, but I don’t think she was overly impressed with him as president. When GHWB ran, her assessment was to “hold my nose and vote for Clinton.”

    I don’t know if she would have been totally enthused about Obama, but I know in my bones she would have been utterly appalled by both Dubya and semi-governor Palin. And we won’t even start with the lackwit crew that ran in the GOP primaries last time around.

  13. avatar
    Steve July 11, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    Bonsall Obot:
    We seem to be exact contemporaries, Steve, and I can state with full confidencethat anyone who looks back on that era as “better times” is wearing glasses of a distinctly rosey tint.

    I never cared much for Reagan. Whatever happiness I had as a youth (and there was some, some tough times, but some good times as well) had nothing to do with the political landscape at the time.
    When I look at many of my high school classmates’ Facebook posts, I often wonder how they came to look at the world the way they do and I look at the world the way I do. I guess the short answer is that my life is very different than theirs.
    They’re mostly married and have children. I’m single without children. I’ve had times when I’ve been unemployed and underemployed and went a long time without health insurance. There were two incidents in my family that led me to believe I’m better off without a gun.
    When I was younger, my hometown was almost entirely white and mostly Catholic. I have no idea how religious many of my friends were or what their politics were like at that time, but I find it amusing that for many of them saying “one nation under God,” in the Pledge of Allegiance and saying “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays” is a very big deal to them. None of those people struck me as being overly pious back in the day. Maybe when you get older and have kids of your own, the “God and Country” stuff that once seemed kind of hokey or corny isn’t so hokey or corny anymore.
    Of course, some of these people still don’t strike me as being overly pious. One minute they post about how God needs to be back in the schools. The next they’ll post a photo of a topless woman on a motorcycle with an AR-15. How one can reconcile those two things is beyond me
    I don’t really debate them much anymore. It’s just a waste of time. What really saddens me is that my high school crush, the only woman I’ve ever considered marrying, is into the Tea Party stuff.
    But again, I guess it’s because our lives are different. I still think about her a lot, but I guess something had to convince me it was not meant to be and that was it.

  14. avatar
    John Reilly July 11, 2014 at 2:00 am #

    I learned from the last Republican National convention that the last Republican President was Pres. Reagan. Nary a mention of either Pres. Bush. Never of mention of Pres. Nixon. Certainly no thought of Pres. Hoover. In fact, there have been very few Republican Presidents. Let’s see. There’s Lincoln, Eisenhower and Reagan. That could be it.

    I know folks who are solid Republicans who blame our current involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan solely on Pres. Obama. One can certainly have issues with his decisions, and I understand collective amnesia about things one is unhappy with, but I do not understand folks who tell me that the Democrats got us into both Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I sometimes think that it is like Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

  15. avatar
    Keith July 11, 2014 at 3:48 am #

    John Reilly: I sometimes think that it is like Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

    A bazillion style points for the Pogo reference. Walt Kelly was the greatest ever.

    I have this one on the shelf just outside my office door where everybody coming up the stairs has to see it:

    Pogo Poster – Earth Day 1970

    There were several versions, this one with Porky Pine is my second favorite:

    Pogo Strip – Earth Day 1971

  16. avatar
    The Magic M July 11, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    My parents were born in the 1920’s, they’ve both been staunchly conservative ever since. (And, growing up under Nazi rule, pretty xenophobic and borderline anti-Semitic to boot.)

  17. avatar
    Keith July 11, 2014 at 4:12 am #

    John Reilly: I sometimes think that it is like Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

    A bazillion style points for the Pogo reference.

    Pogo Earth Day 1970 is on the bench outside my office door where people coming up the stairs get to admire it on the way up.

    There were several versions, Pogo Earth Day 1971 is my second favorite.

    Walt Kelly was possibly the greatest cartoonist in history. Most top artists today list him as their top influence.

    Oh, great. Now I’m gonna have to start a crusade to find all my old Pogo books and find out what I’m missing (most of ‘em unfortunately).

  18. avatar
    Keith July 11, 2014 at 4:15 am #

    I was trying to complement John Reilly for his Pogo quote. I missed getting his quote in to ensure it was read in the proper context. When I tried to edit it in, I got a message saying that it was marked as spam. WTF?

  19. avatar
    alg July 11, 2014 at 9:47 am #

    “It’s a well known fact that older Americans tend more towards birtherism than younger ones. Why is that? Is it the result of deteriorating mental acuity? Perhaps it is something else.”

    Well, that may be true with respect to one’s physical age, but I suspect exactly the opposite is true with respect to one’s mental maturity.
    :-)

  20. avatar
    Thomas Brown July 11, 2014 at 9:50 am #

    Keith: Oh, great. Now I’m gonna have to start a crusade to find all my old Pogo books and find out what I’m missing (most of ‘em unfortunately).

    I was addicted to those cartoon books as a lad, and at one point went to the trouble of looking up the first editions from “Pogo” on. I even found a Time Magazine issue with all the Pogo characters on the cover, published my birth month, Dec. 1955! Yowza!

    There is sometimes no better key to a moment in life than a quote from Walt Kelly.

  21. avatar
    Woodrowfan July 11, 2014 at 9:52 am #

    Re: Pogo. Yesterday’s “On the Fastrack” feature two of the characters having a conversation while sitting in a small boat named “The Walt Kelly.” A nice little call out to “Pogo.”

    I looked at my birth year (late 50s) and we’re slightly more Republican than Democratic. Feh. I’m as Yellow Dog as they get.

  22. avatar
    bovril July 11, 2014 at 11:13 am #

    The thing that does annoy me most with our more rabid friends on the right AND left is not that their politics are here….there…. or wherever.

    It is the inflexibility and intolerance of view that precludes the ability to accept that there may be other and even (shock horror) potentially better points or elements of view.

    I have swung from what my married into family regarded as the token rabid right winger through very liberal to a (in my view) more balanced view on the use of the grey and uncertain in politics.

    On one of the firearm boards I use to be a regular on when I espoused less black ‘n white linear beliefs it really caused confusion. I was asked what “I was”….the answer seemed to engender equal confusion…

    I personally see myself as an Anarcho-Capitalist with significant chunks of Ordoliberalisn, free trade supporter with a strong dose of classic Thatcherism, a moderately cynical belief that “free markets” are rarely free without strong independant oversight and a strong 1st and 2nd Amendment supporter.

    Couple these views with a strong and I believe warranted belief that whilst government should provide a strong social safety net, governments role sees itself as more importantly as the creation of more government which should be fought like an invasive weed in the garden.

    Oh and I was born in the early 60’s….but not saying which century….. 8-)

  23. avatar
    Lupin July 11, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    May I respond with a quote from (who else?) Mam’zelle Hepzibah:

    “Toast makes the world go round.”

  24. avatar
    Thomas Brown July 11, 2014 at 12:30 pm #

    bovril: a moderately cynical belief that “free markets” are rarely free without strong independant oversight

    I don’t find that cynical at all. But it reminded me: free marketeers claim that everything will be leveled out and made efficient by competition. But the first thing powerful companies try to do (some of them anyway) is stifle the competition.

  25. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 11, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

    A free market is never in the interest of the biggest player in that market. This is essentially a “feature” of unregulated capitalism—which is why free markets are inherently unstable and laissez-faire policy tends to concentrate wealth.

    Thomas Brown: I don’t find that cynical at all.But it reminded me: free marketeers claim that everything will be leveled out and made efficient by competition.But the first thing powerful companies try to do (some of them anyway) is stifle the competition.

  26. avatar
    Thomas Brown July 11, 2014 at 5:05 pm #

    Slartibartfast: free markets are inherently unstable and laissez-faire policy tends to concentrate wealth.

    And market share. I had a dream once where driving a Car (so marked) I came across stores marked Food and then one that said Clothing and gas stations that just said Gas and buildings that said Bank. I realized with a start that I was in a future where corporate takeovers had ultimately resulted in the same one-choice-take-it-or-leave-it reality as is imposed in the strictest of communist systems.

    A capitalist nightmare is still a nightmare.

  27. avatar
    Keith July 11, 2014 at 9:25 pm #

    Keith:
    I was trying to complement John Reilly for his Pogo quote. I missed getting his quote in to ensure it was read in the proper context. When I tried to edit it in, I got a message saying that it was marked as spam. WTF?

    And somehow two versions ended up in the comments. (My first one disappeared). I don’t know what triggered the spam filter, but whatever it was sure got me confuzzled.

  28. avatar
    Slartibartfast July 12, 2014 at 12:44 am #

    This is, perhaps, what annoys me most about the tendency of the right to pejoritize terms like “socialist” or “liberal”. if the only available choices are the extremes, then the only available outcomes are disasters—which, in some ways (as you point out), are pretty much the same. As George Orwell illustrated in 1984, you can only talk about things which your language is nuanced enough to describe. Dumbing down the vocabulary of our political discourse is double plus ungood.

    Thomas Brown: A capitalist nightmare is still a nightmare.

  29. avatar
    Unbemused July 12, 2014 at 3:55 am #

    What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?
    You use different definitions on your own site.
    You’re not helping.

  30. avatar
    ArthurWankspittle July 12, 2014 at 4:14 am #

    Keith: And somehow two versions ended up in the comments. (My first one disappeared). I don’t know what triggered the spam filter, but whatever it was sure got me confuzzled.

    Had this on someone’s blog years ago, the software doesn’t like 2 (or n where n is a small number) http links, thinks you are spamming and moderates the post.

  31. avatar
    bovril July 12, 2014 at 8:00 am #

    Unbemused:
    What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?
    You use different definitions on your own site.
    You’re not helping.

    It’s like an anonymous feckwit drooling on the Internet, you know it when you see it.

  32. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy July 12, 2014 at 8:39 am #

    The usage for the term “birther” evolves over time.You knew that, right?

    You might try our glossary.

    http://www.obamaconspiracy.org/glossary/

    Unbemused: What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?

  33. avatar
    Bob July 12, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    The Urban Dictionary has 20 definitions some of which has nothing to do with President Obama ☞ LINK

  34. avatar
    Arthur July 12, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Unbemused: What’s a birther?

    What’s a birther? Why a birther is . . .

    Raindrops on caskets and yammering loonies
    Bright copper bullets and warm woolen nooses,
    Brown-shirted Nazis shouting unhinged,
    These are a few of the birthier things

    Cream colored posters emblazoned by bigots,
    Doorbells that ring when you’re called on by idiots,
    Wild men all shouting, “Obama must swing!”
    These are a few of the birthier things.

    Girls in white dresses with hoods that are matches
    Snowflakes that stay on a skull that’s been smashed in
    Silver white weirdos extremely right wing,
    These are a few of the birthier things

    When the dog bites
    When the bee stings
    When I’m feeling sad
    I simply remember those birthier things
    And then . . . I feel even worse.

  35. avatar
    Curious George July 12, 2014 at 9:39 am #

    “When the dog bites
    When the bee stings
    When I’m feeling sad
    I simply remember those birthier things
    And then . . . I feel even worse.”

    A Burma Shave bravo!

  36. avatar
    Arthur July 12, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Curious George: “When the dog bites
    When the bee stings
    When I’m feeling sad
    I simply remember those birthier things
    And then . . . I feel even worse.”

    I see I missed a rhyme:

    When the dog bites
    When the bee stings
    When I’m feeling cursed,
    I simply remember those birthier things
    And then . . . I feel even worse.

  37. avatar
    Bonsall Obot July 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm #

    Unbemused:

    What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?

    ‘Tis… an idiot.
    Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

  38. avatar
    Woodrowfan July 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Slartibartfast:
    This is, perhaps, what annoys me most about the tendency of the right to pejoritize terms like “socialist” or “liberal”.if the only available choices are the extremes, then the only available outcomes are disasters—which, in some ways (as you point out), are pretty much the same.As George Orwell illustrated in 1984, you can only talk about things which your language is nuanced enough to describe.Dumbing down the vocabulary of our political discourse is double plus ungood.

    And the “socialism doesn’t work!” using the USSR as proof. Yes, the USSR was a failure. Good riddance. But does that mean we can’t learn from the various European democracies, which are free, democratic, and follow many policies you call socialism? It’s like telling people that all brain surgery is useless because lobotomies were bad.

  39. avatar
    Lupin July 13, 2014 at 3:49 am #

    Woodrowfan: And the “socialism doesn’t work!” using the USSR as proof. Yes, the USSR was a failure. Good riddance. But does that mean we can’t learn from the various European democracies, which are free, democratic, and follow many policies you call socialism? It’s like telling people that all brain surgery is useless because lobotomies were bad.

    A week or so ago, I wrote a very non-controversial post for BR in which I tried to point out the differences between so-called “socialist states” (e.g.: Cuba, North Korea, the former USSR, etc) and “social-democracies” (e.g. at one time or another Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden, etc.)

    I also pointed out that the US could arguably be considered a social democracy since FDR, no matter which party is in charge, pointing out the various actions taken by Richard Nixon (EPA, OSHA, etc) which was certainly not known to be a “socialist”.

    The post was deleted within 5 minutes of posting, proving that the BR moderator does not want to entertain as single bit of fact intrude upon their la-la-land. They’re happy to let colorful Obots rant, but not being confronted with their own ignorance and delusions.

  40. avatar
    Joey July 13, 2014 at 2:56 pm #

    Unbemused:
    What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?
    You use different definitions on your own site.
    You’re not helping.

    If any of the definitions offered here don’t help you, how about cyber-surfing over to birtherreport.com and see if their definitions which are provided by folks who actually call themselves “birthers” are more to your liking.

  41. avatar
    Joey July 13, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    According to the 2012 general election exit polls, voters 18 to 29 years of age were 19% of the electorate and they went for Barack Obama by 60% to 37% for Mitt Romney while voters who were 65 and over were 16% of the electorate and they favored Governor Romney by 56% to 44% for President Obama.

  42. avatar
    Rickey July 13, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    Unbemused:
    What’s a birther, you stupid old douchebag?

    Apparently your parents forgot to teach you that calling someone a “douchebag” is crude and rude.

    The fact that Doc C. responded to you in a civil tone is proof positive that he is not the douchebag here.

  43. avatar
    Thomas Brown July 13, 2014 at 10:42 pm #

    What is a Birther? Great question.

    A Birther is too cowardly to be a real patriot, and too weak-minded to be a real conservative. They are oblivious to the revulsion most people have for them, and narcissistic and disconnected enough to believe they are secretly on the Birthers’s side. Birthers have no clue about the definition of political or legal terms. They are too lazy to have read enough history to get any sort of background or context for their crackpot theories. Dumber than a hammer, they nonetheless think they have discerned secret meanings in the Bible and the Constitution that Theologians and Constitutional Scholars have missed. They will hate any person or group in an instant if their bloviating media heroes tell them to. They believe the people they elected to govern when they say the government is incompetent and malevolent. They have allowed their own bitter insecurity to blossom into dangerous paranoia.

    In short, they are without redeeming value, and contribute less than nothing to this country.

    That about cover it?

  44. avatar
    Paper July 13, 2014 at 11:51 pm #

    I find that the birthers I know in actual life tend to be unbemused.

    Unbemused:
    What’s a birther…?

  45. avatar
    Steve July 14, 2014 at 12:20 am #

    Rickey: Apparently your parents forgot to teach you that calling someone a “douchebag” is crude and rude.

    The fact that Doc C. responded to you in a civil tone is proof positive that he is not the douchebag here.

    Well, a douchebag is a sanitary item, so maybe that could be considered a compliment.

  46. avatar
    Rickey July 14, 2014 at 10:06 am #

    Steve: Well, a douchebag is a sanitary item, so maybe that could be considered a compliment.

    I’m pretty sure that the phrase “stupid old douchebag” is not meant to be complimentary.

  47. avatar
    Bonsall Obot July 14, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    Rickey: I’m pretty sure that the phrase “stupid old douchebag” is not meant to be complimentary.

    My whole life is a lie.