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Political Behavior and Values Across the Generations: A Summary of Selected Findings

How will the passing of the "greatest generation" – those individuals who came of age in the 1940s, fought the second world war, were parents to the baby boomers, witnessed the civil rights and women's movements, and the political scandals of the 70s and 80s – affect the political landscape?

When their children, today's boomers, become tomorrow's older voters, will they be as active as their parents in politics? Will they "age" into the roles their parents occupied in the political process, or will they continue to be innovative and independent-minded boomers who happen to have gray hair and bad knees?

In January 2004, AARP Knowledge Management, AARP The Magazine, and Roper ASW collaborated on a study designed to provide a comprehensive look at the political behavior and values of baby boomers (age 40 to 57), the "silent" generation (age 58 to 69), and the "GI" generation (age 70+).

"Boomers," the study finds, "can be expected to be as active as their parents in the political process but it will be on issues they consider important, and in ways they think are effective...Political participation by boomers will be more like the social engagement of their youth - socially active but skeptical about politics; concerned with their communities or other things that directly affect them; results oriented with more regard for producing benefits than for achieving higher goals or fulfilling moral imperatives; and conducted through arrangements that may neglect the traditional political structures to which their parents felt an allegiance."

For this study, 1,804 midlife and older Americans were surveyed. The report was prepared by Jeffrey Love, Ph.D., of AARP Knowledge Management. (22 pages)

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