Governing breaks down the U.S. population by “generation” and state. Here are the percentages in South Dakota and our neighboring states, compared to the national percentages, for “post-millennials”, “millennials”, “Generation X”, “Baby Boomers”, and the “Silent” and “Greatest” generations, based on July 2016 Census estimates:
|state||≤ 15||16–35||36–51||52–70||≥ 71|
South Dakota has more of the two older generations than the nation as a whole, but not by much. If we had a room of 1,000 age-representative South Dakotans, we’d see six more boomers and six more really-grayhairs than we would in a crowd of 1,000 age-representative Americans. My age group, 36 to 51, has the largest discrepancy: in our big meeting rooms, there’d be 24 fewer prime-PTA-age South Dakotans than in the all-Americans’ room. We’d see seven fewer young adult South Dakotans but 19 more kids.
Fewer parent-age South Dakotans, but more kids. Interesting—South Dakota has the second-highest fertility rate in America, behind only to our Mormon cousins in Utah.
I’d like to start of the week with some Democratic optimism based on these numbers. Conventional wisdom and data tell us that older voters skew right while younger voters skew left. Given that the two younger voting generations (and by next year, those 16-year-olds counted last year will be voting age) outnumber the two older voting generations in South Dakota—57% of South Dakota’s 16+ population versus 43%—if age groups voted in proportion to their size, Democrats would have stronger chances of winning.
However, while younger voters ticked up last year compared to 2012, their turnout was still rotten compared to their elders. A bit more than half of the youngest chunk of voters sat out last year’s election (and this is what you get!), while the sit-out rate for the oldest voters was not quite 30%. Applied to South Dakota’s age groups, those turnout rates translate into six more percentage points of voting power for the two older, likely more conservative generations.
Even so (and we’re hip-deep in guessing numbers now!), at those reported turnout rates, younger voters should still have edged older voters 51% to 49% in South Dakota, yet we still went for Trump over Clinton 62% to 32%. Driving more millennial turnout should help Democratic fortunes in South Dakota, but we’ll still have lots of persuading to do as well.