Vi Hart's statistical perspective on the American electoral divide

Originally published at:


And the oldest Americans voted overwhelmingly for the party that promises to take away their Medicare and weaken Social Security. Maybe it was about race, maybe just expressing anxiety about the state of the economy. Only the NYT knows.


A similar divide was pointed out in regard to Brexit: old people selling out the futures of young people in exchange for a pipe-dream fantasy of bringing back a mythic past.

I’ve believed for many years now that the U.S. will only adapt to the realities of the end of the postwar economic anomaly once the Boomer cohort finally loses its demographic clout and their Millenial children start dominating the discourse. The environmental and economic problems that people under 30 will be facing in middle age are making themselves manifest now, and we no longer have the luxury of engaging in confrontation for confrontation’s sake and waxing nostalgic for the “good old days” (the favourite political pastimes of Boomer politicians on both sides of the aisle).


Lies! President Trump will defend Medicare and Social Security against the depredations of his own party! And we know he will win, because people like RINO Ryan are emotional, flighty and scatterbrained and will soon move on to other shiny things, while President Trump will continue to remain steadfastly focused and committed as ever to whatever the first sentence was about!


This old folk is still worried that Trump will get us into a trade war that will tank my retirement savings just as I’m about to collect.


To be fair, it’s these people who are voting for them:

American voters are just a wee bit confused about things.


I love Vi Hart, and I really appreciate her attempt to make sense of this, but I don’t think that it’s all about the age divide. I’m a bit of a geezer myself, and I live in the second-oldest state in the Union (, as does Bernie Sanders. ALL of the five youngest states (Utah, Alaska, Texas, North Dakota, and Idaho) voted for Trump (though the even younger District of Columbia voted Hillary), all of the three oldest states (VT, NH, ME) voted Hillary.


I hope the author’s optimism is justified. Mathematics or no mathematics, history offers little solace. Young people joined the Hitler Youth. Young people lynched blacks in the American South and beat up immigrants in London. Today young people embrace white supremacy and scorched-earth libertarianism. Each generation brings new ideas and new hope, but these always become enmeshed in an inter-generational battle that blunts the hope and short-circuits the ideas. I suppose the real pipe dream is my wish that older and newer generations could see that they are both the same creatures, just at different points in the time stream. Our similarities far outnumber our differences. Whatever our age we all want to live in a good world, to be healthy and safe, to feel worthwhile. A single generation is too small to stop the systemic bulldozer that is wrecking our planet. Even as they speak, today’s younger generation is turning into the older generation. Only by uniting despite our differences, not only across cultures but also across generations, can we gather the strength of numbers to turn back this latest wave of hate and greed.


Perceptive analysis & a hopeful slant. A key sentence:
Can we find a way to disagree in our opinions but agree on the facts?

If the answer is no, then like the apocryphal lawyer (who doesn’t have the facts on their side and thus will not argue them) we are doomed to arguing points of law, pounding the table, or worse.

As Bruce Sterling articulated so well, this situation doesn’t look promising. Until a widely respected arbeiter of ‘facts’ replaces or rehabilitates the mainstream media (if ever), everyone thinks they have their own facts.


As a non statistician I would like to point out how I think our electoral system has been severely compromised .
Gerrymandering, voter suppression through onerous ID laws and denial of access to voting services, as well as the unaddressed vulnerabilities of electronic voting machines/ tabulators. A lot of red states may very well be blue if it weren’t for the many ways wily politicians have made it easier to stay in power.


Of course they did. Should they have joined the Hilter Oldth instead? Come on!

To be fair, Republicans wouldn’t have to game the system if Minorities stopped voting for the Democrat party and started voting for the party that hates, fear and demagogues them relentlessly.


Eh? Silly People !

Lots of 'reasons, but a good chunk of the American people really didn’t want Clinton,
Sanders was the ‘true’ Democratic candidate, honest, he drew lots of people out,
and millions of (small) financial supporters.
He couldn’t overcome a ‘pre-ordained’ democratic party candidate… with tons of money.

They (the voters) either stayed home, or voted for one of the minority party candidates, or wrote in Sanders. That was well enough to let Trump win.


The average American Latino is in their 20s.

The average American White is in their 40s.

The average Fox News viewer is 68 and rising.

The average life expectancy of an American male is 76 and falling.

If we can just hang on, it could be a matter of running out the clock.


I think they have never seriously considered that the GOP ever would take away their SS or Medicare, the supposed Third Rails of American politics. Of course now the GOP is talking seriously about it in the sneaky “privatization” way they love (it would be wise to remind everyone that when the market crashed in 2008 lots of people lost their private retirement savings-- this is why government protected Social Security is so valuable.) They tout privatization as an improvement and “freedom” a la “it’s your money, we’re giving it back to you!”, but it’s really just a veiled long-term strategy to make government programs go away.


Plus it hands a giant pile of money to Wall Street. It’s win-win!


I like what she has to say, but it’s difficult to concentrate on her points while watching her draw.

I think she has some valid points, but that there are multiple reasons this election swung for Trump: age, a white supremacist movement finally energized by a candidate who spoke to them directly, voter ID laws (Wisconsin’s voter ID law is estimated to have turned away as many as 300,000 in a state he won by well under 100,000), lots of people who are still out of work due to the changing nature of manufacturing in America, and of course lots of people who really are kind of gullible and believed Trump’s obvious con-artist promises (which he is now pivoting on, two months before even taking the oath).

If the Democrats want to appeal to the majority of the electorate they have to say “All Americans really want the same thing: security, both financial and physical, and we understand that. National Health care, federal infrastructure spending, promoting new industries in rural areas, and wise diplomacy, these things will help. Tax cuts for the rich and waterboarding suspects while starting some new war will not help, and history proves it.” And apparently they have to do it in a flashy enough way to make people sit up and take notice. They have to call “bullshit” when Trump spouts bullshit, they have to act less like stuffed shirts or career politicians and start acting more like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”


I really like Vi Hart too. She sees the big picture.

Am sure her numbers for age groups are legit in that they may explore actual voter turn out per state and not blanket averages, like the census data which doesn’t offer much detail.

For example large numbers of non-voting under 18s could throw the average for the census data. The spread was around 14 years which doesn’t mean much. Drawing any conclusions from the Denver posts census data as meaningful polling data is specious.

Am glad there was a link to check. :slight_smile:

C’mon gang. We need to up our game. There’s a con man waiting to enter the Whitehouse.


So, in summary, young people are smart, old people are stupid?

A couple of questions for all, from a non-USAian(1), to help me understand better:

“onerous ID laws” - how does this work? Do some states require very specific types of ID that are difficult to get?

“denial of access to voting services” - again, how does this work?

(1) Canadian here. 4th generation, white, male, with all the inherent biases and privileges. ID required when I vote is simple, up to and including a bill from Netflix with my name and address on it. Or a label from a prescription bottle. Or dozens of other items.

ETA: I :heart_eyes: Vi Hart and her videos.

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The tendency to get more conservative with age has been noted for about 150 years – the quote “If You Are Not a Liberal at 25, You Have No Heart. If You Are Not a Conservative at 35 You Have No Brain” is attributed to several people between the mid 19th century and the mid 20th century. It’s possible that young people’s voting patterns represent a sea change, but it’s also quite possible that people face different challenges as they age (18-25s don’t tend to have kids and businesses yet, for example). This generation isn’t becoming financially independent as quickly as their parents’ generation did though, so they might stay more liberal for longer. On the other hand, people have fewer kids and live longer than before, so that might not make that much of a difference.