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The Liberal/Conservative Fertility Gap

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    Liberal politics will prove fruitless as long as liberals refuse to multiply. LIBERAL BABY PROBLEM: CONSERVATIVES MORE FERTILE ARTHUR C. BROOKS Tuesday, August
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 1 5:21 AM
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      Liberal politics will prove fruitless as long as liberals refuse to

      Tuesday, August 22, 2006

      The midterm election looms, and once again efforts begin afresh to
      increase voter participation. It has become standard wisdom in
      American politics that voter turnout is synonymous with good
      citizenship, justifying just about any scheme to get people to the
      polls. Arizona is even considering a voter lottery, in which all
      voters are automatically registered for a $1 million giveaway. Polling
      places and liquor stores in Arizona will now have something in common.

      On the political left, raising the youth vote is one of the most
      common goals. This implicitly plays to the tired old axiom that a
      person under 30 who is not a liberal has no heart (whereas one who is
      still a liberal after 30 has no head). The trouble is, while most "get
      out the vote" campaigns targeting young people are proxies for the
      Democratic Party, these efforts haven't apparently done much to win
      elections for the Democrats. The explanation we often hear from the
      left is that the new young Democrats are more than counterbalanced by
      voters scared up by the Republicans on "cultural issues" like
      abortion, gun rights and gay marriage.

      But the data on young Americans tell a different story. Simply put,
      liberals have a big baby problem: They're not having enough of them,
      they haven't for a long time, and their pool of potential new voters
      is suffering as a result. According to the 2004 General Social Survey,
      if you picked 100 unrelated politically liberal adults at random, you
      would find that they had, between them, 147 children. If you picked
      100 conservatives, you would find 208 kids. That's a "fertility gap"
      of 41%. Given that about 80% of people with an identifiable party
      preference grow up to vote the same way as their parents, this gap
      translates into lots more little Republicans than little Democrats to
      vote in future elections. Over the past 30 years this gap has not been
      below 20%--explaining, to a large extent, the current ineffectiveness
      of liberal youth voter campaigns today.

      Alarmingly for the Democrats, the gap is widening at a bit more than
      half a percentage point per year, meaning that today's problem is
      nothing compared to what the future will most likely hold. Consider
      future presidential elections in a swing state (like Ohio), and assume
      that the current patterns in fertility continue. A state that was
      split 50-50 between left and right in 2004 will tilt right by 2012,
      54% to 46%. By 2020, it will be certifiably right-wing, 59% to 41%. A
      state that is currently 55-45 in favor of liberals (like California)
      will be 54-46 in favor of conservatives by 2020--and all for no other
      reason than babies.

      The fertility gap doesn't budge when we correct for factors like age,
      income, education, sex, race--or even religion. Indeed, if a
      conservative and a liberal are identical in all these ways, the
      liberal will still be 19 percentage points more likely to be childless
      than the conservative. Some believe the gap reflects an authentic
      cultural difference between left and right in America today. As one
      liberal columnist in a major paper graphically put it, "Maybe the
      scales are tipping to the neoconservative, homogenous right in our
      culture simply because they tend not to give much of a damn for the
      ramifications of wanton breeding and environmental destruction and
      pious sanctimony, whereas those on the left actually seem to give a
      whit for the health of the planet and the dire effects of
      overpopulation." It would appear liberals have been quite successful
      controlling overpopulation--in the Democratic Party.

      Of course, politics depends on a lot more than underlying ideology.
      People vote for politicians, not parties. Lots of people are neither
      liberal nor conservative, but rather vote on the basis of
      personalities and specific issues. But all things considered, if the
      Democrats continue to appeal to liberals and the Republicans to
      conservatives, getting out the youth vote may be increasingly an
      exercise in futility for the American left.

      Democratic politicians may have no more babies left to kiss.

      Mr. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of
      Public Affairs, is the author of "Who Really Cares: The Surprising
      Truth About Compassionate Conservatism," forthcoming from Basic Books.



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