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Jennifer Donahue Headshot

Older and Younger Voters Will Send Protest Vote on Economy

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We've seen the trends for years now. Young voters, 18-29 years old, are registering at a higher rate than any other age group. They gave Obama the nomination, despite consistent national polling that showed Senator Clinton ahead from the start.

Now the same polling shows a dead heat, after a month of showing McCain ahead. The only way to understand current polling data is to discard it.

The polling companies only survey land-lines and previous voters. It is illegal to survey mobile phones, which right there cuts out anyone under 29 in your survey. Traditional pollsters won't integrate the internet, even though you lose anyone under 29 by not doing it. But increasingly, you are also losing the voice of another key demographic in your polling data: retirees.

Pollsters and analysts have not realized that Obama has a lot of support among retirees. Older voters have a central concern in common with the youngest eligible voters. Right now, both age groups are looking at a terrifying number in their savings account. That number may be zero. Neither group is looking at employment in well-paying industries anytime soon. Retirees, whether they have reached retirement age or not, still need employment to pay the bills and eat more than ramen noodles for dinner. Young college graduates around the country are fighting over low-paying retail jobs at Target. Non-college graduates are in the same boat.

Young and old alike are watching the financial crisis in disbelief. Older boomers and millenials have another thing in common: they distrust the establishment. They distrust government, the banking industry, corporations and the media.

It is naive to think echo boomers (the current 18-29 year olds, also called the millenials) will not vote in November. They look a lot like boomers politically and have the same distrust of the establishment. They are also very large generations numerically.

It is a mistake by the media and political establishments to listen to the establishment polling aparati. Those in the political business ignore this concept at the risk of losing this Fall. Those in the media business are making false predictions. And those in corporate America risk a false sense of complacency if they don't realize they have more in common with these two sidelined demographics than they would like. They could be the next people walking out of fancy buildings with a few boxes of memories. No voter one has security right now, regardless of socio-economic or education level, party affiliation, industry, age, race or gender. The loudest vote this Fall will be the economic protest vote. The outcry will be loud, and much more diverse than expected.