Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have ignited a firestorm. They have addressed the worries and fears of three generations of Americans: Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers.

Sanders’ appeal to millennials (born from 1982 to 2000, ages today 16 to 34) caught everyone by surprise because no one understood what was fueling millennials’ fears. Millennials, educated by 1960’s liberals, are a talented generation with few job prospects, massive student debt and living with their parents. So, for millennials, getting a government handout seems to be their only alternative. They love authenticity, so they felt the ‘Bern.’ And, they find Trump authentic. Millennials have little problem jumping from a democratic socialist like Sanders to a common sense conservative … especially when millennial issues are being addressed.

Gen Xers (born from 1961 to 1981, ages today 35 to 55) were latchkey children who were locked out of the job market as young adults by the enormous number of Boomers still actively employed. They feel they have been ignored by society. The result? They have become cynical and practical. They are a generation of survivors. They were influenced by Ronald Reagan. They turned to capitalism, entrepreneurship and a simplified life. With Donald Trump, they see someone who has brought to the forefront issues important to all Americans: national security, immigration, law and order, jobs and trade agreements beneficial to the U.S. Xers, themselves, are brash and in-your-face, so they have little trouble with Trump’s style. They are used to seeing him on TV, hiring and firing women, minorities, gays and anyone else. And, just like millennials, Xers like authenticity. They are survivors because they never had much societal support as children, so, they learned early on to take care of themselves. They are not likely to trust a democratic socialist like Bernie Sanders to take care of them. It’s not in their DNA.

Baby Boomers (born from 1943 to 1960, ages today 56 to 73) are something else. They are the first generation to value the rights of the individual over the good of the group. They are the first generation to leave America worse off for the generation that follows. The appeal of Sanders and Trump is that Boomers, the “ME” generation, are worried about losing jobs when they are too old to be rehired. They are worried about outliving their money. They are worried about the prospect of a bleak world for their children and grandchildren. Boomers have been anti-establishment since the Vietnam War, which is one reason why Trump appeals to them. Boomers have a history of putting the blame on Washington politicians and wonder if an outsider might just be the ticket. Those who don’t like Trump are already talking about moving to Canada (Boomers have a history of that.) Sanders, on the other hand, appeals to their fear of not having enough money to take care of themselves as they age. Even though many continue to work past retirement age, their income has not changed considerably. For many who lost their jobs in 2008, yet needed to continue to bring in a full-time salary, found themselves having to accept employment at a considerable lower salary. Add to that, they have never been known to be great savers.

These three American generations of voters face two very different candidates who offer something different. It is as simple as that.

About the Author

Image 1Ann A. Fishman was awarded four U.S. Senate Research Fellowships to study generational trends and taught generational marketing at New York University. She is president of Generational Targeted Marketing, LLC, a specialized marketing firm providing insights into the preferences, trends, and buying habits of each of America’s six generations. She is an expert in providing insights into the preferences, trends, and buying habits of each of America’s six generations. She taught generational marketing at NYU. Her book, Marketing to the Millennial Woman, was published in September 2015.



Recommended Reading

Fishman-MarketingTTMW-cover-RGB300dpiMarketing to the Millennial Woman, Ann Arnof Fishman (Generational Targeted Marketing, 2015)

Marketing to the Millennial Woman takes an in-depth look at their values, attitudes, and lifestyles to help businesses and marketers better understand why they prefer to shop at, and work for, companies that recognize and honor their unique values and perspective. It is a complete guide that offers a clear strategy on how to manage, connect with, and market to these women. A must-read for any executive.