Published On: Wed, Dec 27th, 2023

Gen X and President Biden: Reality bites


By: Susan Davis

Tara Schoettle’s disapproval of President Biden can be traced back to her childhood.

“I have a distinct memory of when Carter was in office and we had to wait in line for gas,” Schoettle told NPR, in reference to the gas shortages that impacted the U.S. under Democratic President Jimmy Carter. “I feel the liberals just have always done this sort of thing and they love to word things as socially responsible and things like that, but they’re fiscally very irresponsible.”

At 54, Schoettle is squarely a member of Generation X — those born between roughly 1965 and 1980. That political memory alone helps explain why they tilt more conservative than members of other generations. Schoettle has voted for a Democrat for president just once: Barack Obama in 2008.

“Gen X is the most Republican of the generations,” said Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University and author of the book Generations, which examines what drives generational differences.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist polling underscores that point: By generation, Biden has the highest disapproval rating from Generation X (62%), compared with the Silent/Greatest Generation (48%), baby boomers (48%) and Generation Z/millennials (50%). Biden also has the highest “strongly disapprove” rating from Gen X (52%), compared with the Silent/Greatest Generation (41%), boomers (39%) and Gen Z/millennials (35%).

Twenge says that political leanings of generations can be influenced by the popularity of the president when that generation is in adolescence or young adulthood. For Gen X, that is largely defined by an unpopular Carter and a popular Republican president, Ronald Reagan.

Even for Gen Xers who say they generally approve of Biden, they share a nostalgia for the politics of their youth.

“Ronald Reagan made me feel good about being a U.S. citizen, being American,” said Ken Piccolo, 56, a substitute teacher from San Jose, California.

“He made you feel like it was worthwhile and we’re a good country and we’re doing some good stuff, because just the way he interacted with the state, the world, the country — he just made you feel good about being American.”

But Piccolo’s support for Biden is a tenuous one. He feels good about where the economy is going, but he’s still concerned about Biden’s age. So if there’s a younger — and viable — Democrat, he says he might switch his vote. But as of now, he says his Biden vote is driven by a disgust at the influence that former President Donald Trump has had over the Republican Party. “I don’t hate the Republican Party. I hate the MAGA wing of it,” he said, “These people are lunatics.”

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