Insights · November 5th, 2010

With the U.S. election in the rear view mirror, and no shortage of explanations for what happened and why (and note that almost all explainers interpret the results as confirming their prior views) I’ll add just a couple of thoughts.

First, in retrospect this was very much a values vote, something I underestimated. The values choices were no or very little government, versus government solutions to national issues. Now, I think many voters were mistakenly persuaded that the current administration had gone too far and did not fully understand either the national problems or the solutions to them, like the national health care plan. Never-the-less, even granting less that perfect information and knowledge, there can be little doubt that voters were expressing their values. This is a good thing, as the tension between in-active (smaller) government and active (larger) government is a useful tension when well expressed.

Second, I recently came across some information explaining more deeply who the unemployed are in the the U.S., some 15 million people at least. And this is a critical piece of data that explains the vote. Traditionally when unemployment increases it is the 16-24 year olds who feel it first, and the 24-45 year olds who feel it next. In recessions since the Great Depression, most workers over 45 were relatively safe. But not in this great recession. In 2007 there were 2 million unemployed over the age of 45, while today there are 5 million, fully a third of the unemployed. And these people are not only older, many are unemployed for the first time or the first time of any length. Moreover they are mostly white, and far more educated than the traditional unemployed. Fully a third of the unemployed have college degrees. Thus when entry level retail or hospitality jobs open, such jobs do not fit the need. These older unemployed are both confused and angry. Oh, and older and whiter people vote heavily in off-year elections.

And that explains, better than anything, what happened and why, in my opinion.

Nikolas Badminton – Chief Futurist

Nikolas Badminton

Nikolas is the Chief Futurist of the Futurist Think Tank. He is world-renowned futurist speaker, a Fellow of The RSA, and has worked with over 300 of the world’s most impactful companies to establish strategic foresight capabilities, identify trends shaping our world, help anticipate unforeseen risks, and design equitable futures for all. In his new book – ‘Facing Our Futures’ – he challenges short-term thinking and provides executives and organizations with the foundations for futures design and the tools to ignite curiosity, create a framework for futures exploration, and shift their mindset from what is to WHAT IF…

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