I know there are a cornucopia of health reasons (physical and mental) to avoid using drugs, now it appears there may be political reasons as well. For all the nut-job rhetoric you may have heard about values and the 1960s, as conservative columnist David Frum points out in his book on the 70s, as late as 1967, only 7% of Americans had ever used an illegal drug. Furthermore, as liberal sociologist Mike Males points out in his book The Scapegoat Generation, as late as 1972 the National Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse survey’s indicated that 86% of 12-17 year olds had never tried pot, 94% had never used an illegal drug or inhalant, 95% had never used acid, and 99% had never tried cocaine or heroin, 82% said they had never used an illegal drug at all.
Of course, as these high schoolers moved through post-high school education during the 1970s, they became more likely to experiment with drugs. More scary, drug use by minors (which had previously been low, though not unheard of) soared in the 1970s. By the years 1976-1979, according to the University of Michigan, over 50%!!! of high school seniors smoked pot regularly, while 10% did daily. From 1979-1992, drug use in America and among teens declined (though not to rates as low as the mid-late 1960s). Rates among teens rose again from 1992-97. Since then it has leveled off, if not declined slightly. So what does this have to do with politics? According to Jonathan Pontell of Mason-Dixon polling, a lot.
Meet “Generation Jones.” Often unfairly lumped in with their older siblings, the baby boomers these folks were born in the years 1954 through 1964 ( at least 4 million babies were born in each of those years). These folks make up 26% of adults in the US today. They made up 28% of voters in 2004 and might make up 31% of voters in 2008.
Much was made in the 1980s about Reagan and Bush’s totals among voters under 30 (lost them 44%-43% in 1980, won them 59%-40% in 1984, won them 52%-47% in 1988). Of course anybody can do stupid things when they are young.
But what about 30-44 year olds and 45-59 year olds in 2000 and 2004, when Jonesers were/are in these age groups? 2000: 30-44 and 45-59, Bush 49%-48%. 2004: 30-44, Bush 52%-46%, 45-59 Bush 51%-48%. What gives? I’m hoping it is still the after effects of drug use in the 1970s, but unfortunately Pontell’s theories are more credible. He writes:
“As children in the 1960s, Jonesers were given huge expectations, during, arguably, the peak of post-World War II American confidence and affluence, and then confronted, as they came of age during the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s with a very different reality, leaving them with a certain pending, unrequited, “jonesin”‘ quality.” Those huge expectations left unfulfilled are now strongly affecting this generation as it enters middle age, a life-cycle period when all generations feel that “now or never” feeling rumbling in the pit of the stomach – that realization that if you don’t pursue your dreams quickly, you probably never will.”
More importantly, “Having reached adulthood primarily during the Reagan era, Jonesers appear to offer a more conservative and less secular approach to politics than their older brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. They also may be less divisive and less harsh in their rhetoric, having not had to deal with the major conflicts of the Civil Rights and Vietnam eras…. it is the female bloc of Jones voters that is largely identified as “security moms.” They are also a major part of the “evangelical vote,” and Jones voters are a significant percentage of the “cross-over” ethnic voters that supported Bush.”
Most important, without his margins among Jonesers, Bush would not have won. He won the Jones vote in all 15 battleground states. Nationally, generation Jones women were the only generation of females to give a majority of their votes to Bush. Most damaging are these statistics about Generation Jones (men and women):
“In Florida, senior, baby-boomer and younger voters combined supported Kerry 50 percent to 49 percent, but Bush’s 56-43 margin with Jonesers provided his five-point victory statewide.
In Ohio, senior, baby-boomer and younger voters combined supported Kerry 51-48 but Bush carried the state with his 59-40 advantage among Jones voters.
In Iowa, senior, baby-boomer and younger voters combined supported Kerry 51-48, but Jonesers went 56-43 for Bush.
In Nevada, senior, baby-boomer and younger voters combined supported Kerry 50-49, but the Jones vote went 56-43 for Bush.
Finally, in New Mexico, senior, baby-boomer and younger voters combined went for Kerry 51-48, but Jonesers backed Bush 54-45.
In total, these five states accounted for 64 electoral votes. Had they gone for Kerry, he would have won the presidency with 316 electoral votes to Bush’s 222.
(The Jones vote for Bush was also heavy in Colorado, with 57 percent for Bush compared to 42 percent for Kerry. But it was not technically decisive, because the combined vote of other age groups was 50-49 in favor of Bush.)”
Of course all this is somewhat harsh on these folks. After all, Bush’s 2004 margins were only slightly greater among 30-44 year olds and 45-59 year olds than they were in 2000, when he lost the popular vote. Kerry actually won voters over 74 and voters under 30, by margins much greater than Gore’s.
The switchers, according to the Washington Post Outlook article “A Dominant GOP?” (12/26/04) were voters born from 1929 to 1944 (60 to 74 year olds). This group voted for Gore 51%-47% in 2000, but gave 54% of their votes to Bush this time (apparently over gay marriage, which is odd because Kerry opposed gay marriage). Still, its Jonesers that are assuming power in government, business, and the media.
So how did these folks end up so GOP? More importantly, what (if anything) can Dems do to win over these voters?
The full editorial “Meet ‘Gen Jones’ is available at the Denver Post at www.marstoncomm.com/Denver_Post.pdf