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Retiree Robert Rivers poses at his home in Ravena, N.Y., in this photo taken Thursday, March 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Groll) Retiree Robert Rivers poses at his home in Ravena, N.Y., in this photo taken Thursday, March 24, 2011. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)  

Baby boomers climb on GOP wagon

Photo of Neil Munro
Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Dustin Hoffman’s graduate is rooting for Mitt Romney. Woodstock’s attendees are donating to the Republican National Committee. Haight Ashbury’s residents are complaining about big government.

The long-haired, dope-smoking, free-loving baby boomers are becoming majority-Republican and politically indistinguishable from their elder cousins in the so-called “silent generation,” according to a new Pew Research Center study.

That’s the takeaway lesson from a comprehensive new study of the baby boomers’ changing political attitudes released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

“You see people in that generation supported [George] McGovern over [Richard] Nixon by 16 points… [but] many of them now are supporting Romney over Obama,” said Carroll Doherty, Pew’s associate director.

This generational shift towards the GOP has also opened up a new generational gap between older and younger voters he said. Younger voters, who include a much higher proportion of non-whites, are far more supportive of President Barack Obama than are older generations, he said.

The Pew study showed that registered boomers favor Romney over Obama by six points, or 51 percent to 45 percent.

That’s a weaker tilt than the older generation, which favors Romney by 13 points, 54 percent to 41 percent.

But it is 30 points more pro-GOP than the youngest Millennial voters, aged 18 to 29, who support Obama by 24 points, or 61 percent to 37 percent.

The high support for Obama among millennials exists even though Obama’s policies have failed to reverse the economic recession, spurring their national debt and shriveling their career prospects.

One explanation, said Doherty, is that 41 percent of the millennial generation is non-while — 20 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African-American and five percent Asian.

In contrast, only 27 percent of the boomer generation were non-whites, said the study, titled “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election.”

The boomers’ rightward shift is unacknowledged, partly because many boomers — especially those in the university-trained professional classes, such as the media — still prefer to think of themselves as not-so-young Democrats, and more modern than the previous generation.

That earlier generation has acquired the dismissed name, “the silent generation,” partly because it was squeezed between the returning heroes of World War II, and the huge and very ambitious bulge of post-war babies who made the late 1960s so turbulent, and the ‘70s decade so unique.

Many boomers still identify with their outdated heroes of the 1960s and 1970s — Dustin Hoffman’s character in “The Graduate,” the Mike or Mark characters in the unchanging Doonesbury cartoon-strip, and the progressively groomed images of J.F.K. and R.F.K., who were killed by a communist and an Arab, respectively.

The villains is those frozen dramas remain the plastics industry executive, the father-and-son Republican business lobbyists and the anti-communist crusaders.

When asked, the boomers “are more likely to call themselves Democrats,” even while they vote mostly GOP, Doherty said.

The survey’s trend lines show the much-lauded boomer generation drifting steadily towards the conservative views held by the much-derided silent generation of people born just before or during World War II.

Thirty percent of the pre-boomer generation is “angry” at government, and so is 26 percent of boomers.

“Trust in government” is at 16 percent among boomers and silents.