Measuring Influence in U.S. Politics, by Generation
Generations are a widely recognized and discussed concept, and it’s assumed people all understand what they refer to. But the true extent of each generation’s clout has remained undetermined—until now.
In our inaugural Generational Power Index (GPI) 2021, we examine the power and influence each generation currently holds on American society, and its potential to evolve in the future.
Political power by generation was one of three key categories we used to quantify the current landscape. Before we dive into the results, here’s how the Political Power category was calculated.
Measuring Generational Power
To begin with, here’s how we categorized each generation:
|Generation||Age range (years)||Birth year range|
|The Silent Generation||76 and over||1928-1945|
|Gen Alpha||8 and below||2013-present|
Using these age groups as a framework, we then calculated the Political Power category using these distinct equally-weighted variables:
With this methodology in mind, here’s how the Political Power category shakes out, using insights from the GPI.
Share of Political Power by Generation
Baby Boomers dominated with over 47% of the total political power by generation. This cohort has particular strength in the judicial system and in Congress.
|Generation||Political Power Share|
Baby Boomers, along with the Silent Generation also control 80% of political spending. Meanwhile, Gen X accounts for nearly half (46%) of local government positions.
Both voters and politicians play key roles in shaping American society. Thus, two variables worth looking closer at are the evolving electoral base and the composition of Congress.
The Changing Face of the U.S. Voter
Younger generations have very different perceptions on everything from cannabis to climate change. This is starting to be reflected in legislation.
2016 was a watershed moment for politicians vying for the vote—it was the last election in which Baby Boomers made up over a third of U.S. voters. Collectively, Boomers’ voting power will decline from here on out.
Within the next two decades, the combined voting power of Millennials and Gen Z will skyrocket from 32% in 2020 up to 55% by 2036.
Meanwhile, a decade from now, the oldest members of Gen Alpha (those born in 2013 and later) will enter the playing field and become eligible to vote in 2031.
The View from the Top
Having examined generational power in the electorate, we now turn our attention to the people on the other side of the democratic equation—the politicians.
In most cases, it takes many decades of experience and reputation building to reach the highest offices in the land. That’s why the median age of Congress (61.2) is much higher than the median age of the U.S. population at large (38.1).
At this point in time, Baby Boomers are in the sweet spot, and it shows in the numbers. Boomers represent 298 of 532 Congressional seats (56% of all seats), and Gen X’s growing contingent of members represents 31%.
On one end of the spectrum, the Silent Generation still occupies 7% of seats, which roughly reflects the group’s share of the U.S. population. California’s Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein and Republican Don Young are both 87 years old, the latter having represented Alaska for 25 terms.
On the other end of the spectrum, Millennials currently claim 32 seats, just 6% of the total. As of 2021, this entire cohort now meets the minimum age requirement (25) to serve in the House of Representatives. The youngest member of Congress is Republican Madison Cawthorn, a representative for North Carolina at just 25 years old. Meanwhile, Senator Jon Ossoff is the youngest Senator in the country, serving Georgia at 36 years old.
This difference in political power by generation is stark considering that both Boomers and Millennials both make up similar proportions of the U.S. population at large. In that sense, Millennials are greatly underrepresented in Congress compared to Boomers.
Gen Z Waiting Patiently in the Wings
Gen Z’s current age range is a natural reason why they don’t yet have a foothold in government. But by 2022, the oldest members of Gen Z will turn 25, meeting the minimum age requirement to get elected into the House of Representatives.
With the oldest members of this generation soon turning 25, how long will it be before a representative from Gen Z occupies a seat in the Capitol Building?
Download the Generational Power Report (.pdf)
Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?
There is a clear correlation between trust in government and trust in public institutions, but a few countries buck the trend.
Which Countries Trust Their Government, and Which Ones Don’t?
In many countries around the world, vast portions of the population do not trust their own government.
Lack of faith in government and politics is nothing new, but in times of uncertainty, that lack of trust can coalesce into movements that challenge the authority of ruling parties and even threaten the stability of nations.
This visualization uses data from the Ipsos Global Trustworthiness Monitor to look at how much various populations trust their government and public institutions.
Tracking Trust in Government
Since the beginning of the pandemic, global trust in government has improved by eight percentage points, but that is only a small improvement on an otherwise low score.
At the country level, feelings towards government can vary widely. India, Germany, Netherlands, and Malaysia had the highest government trust levels.
Many of the countries with the lowest levels of trust were located in Latin America. This makes sense, as trust in politicians in this region is almost non-existent. For example, in Colombia, only 4% of the population consider politicians trustworthy. In Argentina, that figure falls to just 3%.
Trust in Public Institutions
Broadly speaking, people trust their public services more than the governments in charge of managing and funding them. This makes sense as civil servants fare much better than politicians and government ministers in trustworthiness.
As our main chart demonstrates, there is a correlation between faith in government and trust in public institutions. There are clear “high trust” and “low trust” groupings in the countries included in the polling, but there is also a third group that stands out—the countries that have high trust in public institutions, but not in their government. Leading this group is Japan, which has a stark difference in trust between public services and politicians. There are many factors that explain this difference, such as values, corruption levels, and the reliability of public services in various countries.
While trust scores for government improved slightly during the pandemic, trust in public institutions stayed nearly the same.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
The U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades. Here are the numbers behind America’s gun manufacturing sector.
30 Years of Gun Manufacturing in America
While gun sales have been brisk in recent years, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 was a boon for the gun industry.
From 2010-2019, an average of 13 million guns were sold legally in the U.S. each year. In 2020 and 2021, annual gun sales sharply increased to 20 million.
While the U.S. does import millions of weapons each year, a large amount of firearms sold in the country were produced domestically. Let’s dig into the data behind the multi-billion dollar gun manufacturing industry in America.
Gun Manufacturing in the United States
According to a recent report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the U.S. has produced nearly 170 million firearms over the past three decades, with production increasing sharply in recent years.
America’s gunmakers produce a wide variety of firearms, but they’re generally grouped into five categories; pistols, rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and everything else.
Below is a breakdown of firearms manufactured in the country over the past 30 years, by type:
|Year||Pistols||Rifles||Revolvers||Shotguns||Misc. Firearms||Total Firearms|
Pistols (36%) and rifles (35%) are the dominant categories, and over time, the former has become the most commonly produced firearm type.
In 2001, pistols accounted for 21% of firearms produced. Today, nearly half of all firearms produced are pistols.
Who is Producing America’s Firearms?
There are a wide variety of firearm manufacturing companies in the U.S., but production is dominated by a few key players.
Here are the top 10 gunmakers in America, which collectively make up 70% of production:
|Rank||Firearm Manufacturer||Guns Produced (2016-2020)||Share of total|
|1||Smith & Wesson Corp||8,218,199||17.2%|
|2||Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc||8,166,448||17.1%|
|3||Sig Sauer Inc||3,660,629||7.7%|
|5||0 F Mossberg & Sons Inc||2,223,241||4.7%|
|6||Taurus International Manufacturing||1,996,121||4.2%|
|7||WM C Anderson Inc||1,816,625||3.8%|
|9||Henry RAC Holding Corp||1,378,544||2.9%|
|10||JIE Capital Holdings / Enterprises||1,258,969||2.6%|
One-third of production comes from two publicly-traded parent companies: Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ: SWBI), and Sturm, Ruger & Co. (NYSE: RGR)
Some of these players are especially dominant within certain types of firearms. For example:
- 58% of pistols were made by Smith & Wesson, Ruger, and SIG SAUER (2008–2018)
- 45% of rifles were made by Remington*, Ruger, and Smith & Wesson (2008–2018)
*In 2020, Remington filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and its assets were divided and sold to various buyers. The Remington brand name is now owned by Vista Outdoor (NYSE: VSTO)
The Geography of Gun Manufacturing
Companies that manufacture guns hold a Type 07 license from the ATF. As of 2020, there are more than 16,000 Type 07 licensees across the United States.
Below is a state-level look at where the country’s licensees are located:
|State||Licenses (2000)||Licenses (2020)||Population||Licenses per 100,000 pop. (2020)|
These manufacturers are located all around the country, so these numbers are somewhat reflective of population. Unsurprisingly, large states like Texas and Florida have the most licensees.
Sorting by the number of licensees per 100,000 people offers a different point of view. By this measure, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho come out on top.
If recent sales and production trends are any indication, these numbers may only continue to grow.
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