December 7, 2004


Meet 'Gen Jones': Group was 2004's real swing vote (Jonathan Pontell and J. Brad Coker, December 05, 2004, Denver Post)

During the 2004 presidential campaign, extensive media coverage was focused on all the usual suspects, like women, minority voters and evangelical Christians. But in their typical emphasis of demographic variables like gender, geography, socio-economics and race, the media largely ignored, again, the key issue of age in the electorate.

In doing so, they missed out on a major story: history will show that one generation of voters - Generation Jones - provided the decisive vote that re-elected George W. Bush on Nov. 2, 2004. [...]

For the uninitiated, Generation Jones is the large, heretofore lost, generation between the baby boomers and Generation X. Born in the years 1954 to 1965, Jonesers are not a small cusp generation that slipped through the cracks but rather the largest generation in American history, constituting 26 percent of all U.S. adults today. Mistakenly, they were originally lumped in with boomers for one reason only: their parents and boomers' parents happened to have a lot of kids.

But generational personalities come from shared formative experiences, not head counts. This original flawed definition of the baby-boom generation has become widely discredited among experts, which is partly what's given rise to the emergence of Generation Jones, a cohort with significantly different attitudes and values than those held by its surrounding generations.

Why the name Generation Jones? Among its many connotations is that of a large anonymous generation, like a Generation Smith or Doe. But the connotation that's perhaps most relevant for politics arises from the slang term "jones'": a craving for someone or something. As children in the 1960s, Jonesers were given huge expectations, during, arguably, the peak of post-World War II American confidence and affluence, and then confronted, as they came of age during the mid-to-late 1970s and early 1980s with a very different reality, leaving them with a certain pending, unrequited, "jonesin"' quality.

Those huge expectations left unfulfilled are now strongly affecting this generation as it enters middle age, a life-cycle period when all generations feel that "now or never" feeling rumbling in the pit of the stomach - that realization that if you don't pursue your dreams quickly, you probably never will.

But for this unfulfilled generation, which is still jonesin' for the original big dreams they'd expected, that now-or-never feeling is more a growling hunger than a distant rumble in the stomach. So Jonesers are stepping back from their lives, taking stock, reassessing and experimenting. There is a mountain of statistical evidence showing that Jonesers are, right now, extremely open to trying new brands, products and services; that they are, to an unprecedented degree, switching careers, moving and changing lifestyles. In short, Jonesers are in play; they are persuadable.

Doesn't say so here but the Generation--which includes me and the Other Brother--looks to start around the earliest point where kids would not have had to decide about going to Vietnam. We watched the older kids make complete asses of themselves in the 60s and experienced the wreckage they'd made of the country in the 70s, then had Ronald Reagan ride in as a near savior in the 80s and enjoyed the Peace Dividend of the 90s. It hardly seems surprising that this cohort would be so attracted to the Reaganesque leadership of George W. Bush and repelled by the 60s throwback John Kerry.

-Overshadowed generation prepares to steer political agenda, author claims: 53 million members of 'Generation Jones' ready to speak on their own (Ian Christopher McCaleb, March 5, 2000, CNN)

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2004 12:00 AM

This bodes well for the Rs in the next several election cycles. But this generation also lacks loyalty (to employers, to unions, to political parties). If the Rs blow it there could be a quick backlash from this group.

Posted by: Gideon at December 7, 2004 3:27 AM


I can't thank you enough for this article. Being born in 1964, coming of awareness during the NYC fiscal crisis, Watergate and the Carter Fiasco I have always been of the opinion that the 60s were a party to which I was not invited but for which I got stuck with the bill.

Gideon, sure we lack loyalty, because that is a two-way street. The culture and the government betrayed us in our formative years, particularly if you are a White male, so why should it be entitled to any loyalty from us?

Posted by: Bart at December 7, 2004 6:21 AM

Bart --

I came across this article elsewhere, but my reaction was the same. I was totally surprised and gratified that my generation actually had a name. Moreover, the gist of the analysis has the ring of truth. I can't believe that in an era of overmarketing and overinformation I had never heard of this. Wonder of this was true for others.

Posted by: Moe from NC at December 7, 2004 8:06 AM

I'm a member, too. (Hey, it's the Brothers Jones blog.) On the one hand, I have a problem with this sort of pop-psych demographic determinism. On the other hand, I love not being the tail end of the Boom. I can't stand those neurotic egomaniacs created by the loosening of social convention after WWII.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 7, 2004 8:18 AM

I've been saying for years that the "late Boomers" defined in this story have always been pulled along as unwilling accomplaces for the early boomer group, where their fads, whims and goofy behavior has been extrapolated by the media to include the later group, which had no say in the matter. That was the case even though, in the case of the tail-enders born in the 60s, they were kids barely out of diapers when the "voices of their generation" were making fools of themselves on the streets of the nation andon college campuses in the late 1960s, allegedly representing their true beliefs (as if "kill your parents" was the main thoughts of thousands of 4-year-olds during the summer of '68).

But, please, can't we get a better name than that? "Generation Jones" sounds like something else some early boomer has come up with and stuck onto the 1954-65 group (and it also that really awful 1970s basketball song).

Posted by: John at December 7, 2004 8:27 AM

I (a 1961-vintage human being) have never liked being lumped in with the "Boomers." I was thinking we should be categorized as "Generation W," being the one before "Generation X." Hey, wait a minute! . . .

Posted by: Mike Morley at December 7, 2004 8:28 AM

As a full-fledged boomer, I've long felt we were the most spolied and tiresome generation in history, except for the ones that came after us. At least we didn't whine and gaze at our navels like you guys.

Posted by: Peter B at December 7, 2004 8:52 AM

Ditto what Dave said (yes I'm a member too).

Posted by: AWW at December 7, 2004 9:54 AM


I'm a 1963 model and I've always wondered about my compulsion to whine and navel gaze. I blame you oppressive Boomers.

Posted by: jefferson park at December 7, 2004 10:05 AM

I always figured the cutoff is whether you were devastated when demonstrators got beat up and shot and when the Weathermen blew themselves up and the like or whether you figured they had it coming. And then whether you saw the fall of Saigon as a tragedy or a victory.

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 10:06 AM

My sibling group spans this date range ('47-me to '59)so I see the differences in my own family. But (early)Boomer bashing as an explanation for developments in the '60s and '70s has always seemed too facile to me, even if it is fun. What I most remember from that era is the total abdication of the elite adult power structure - the media, campus administrations, and the mainline churches - to a vocal campus minority. The radicals were extolled when they could/should have been expelled. So who's fault is that?

Remember, too, that early boomer leadership came from those 5 to 7 or 8 years older. The Port Huron Statement was signed in '62 when all us boomers were still in high school. I've often wondered if fear of the Vietnam era draft didn't create a pool of foot soldiers for older folks with their own agenda.

Posted by: Pat Garnaas at December 7, 2004 10:12 AM

Standing up to be counted as yet another member of the GenJonesers (circa '61).

Posted by: MB at December 7, 2004 10:16 AM


Which is why the Greatest Generation is also the Worstest:

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 10:20 AM

Pat --

It's true that the pre-WWII group of radicals latched onto the younger generation to be seen in th media as their supposed leaders (and there were a few notices of irony in the press when Abbie "Never Trust Anyone Over 30" Hoffman turned 30 right in the middle of the late 60s uphevals), its also true there were many "willing accomplaces" within the generation, along with the "useful idiots" that helped those on the left and others in the media spin the story that the path of the radical boomers was the wave of the future.

It's those people as much as people like Hoffman or Jerry Rubin that agitate the late boomers, because for the better part of three decades, the press would go running off in their direction to garner quotes about what an entire generation really thought (though this also had its benefits, too -- the media really convinced themselves in the early 1970s that this group was on the cusp of a new society, which is why they were so shocked, first about the results of the 1972 election and then the results of 1980, when the Youth of America who actually bothered to vote failed to live up to their stereotype).

Posted by: John at December 7, 2004 10:27 AM

I have a deep, deep dislike of the 60s boomers. And if I get into an argument with them, I let them know it.

It's up to my generation to correct their excesses.

Which is what we've been doing.

Which is why there are more SAHM moms and dads.

The Utopiaists (sp) have handed us WW IV.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2004 11:00 AM

We definitely be Jonesin'.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2004 11:02 AM


Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 11:05 AM

I (heart symbol with big red X superimposed) the Boomers!

They were like locusts, ravenously devouring everything in their path and leaving a denuded landscape behind for who came after, i.e., me and my cohorts.

Begone you plague!

Posted by: Eugene S. at December 7, 2004 11:13 AM

Thanks, OJ.

My mind said more than one iaists.

And the Red State Diapers article is just another piece of this.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2004 11:30 AM

Hmmm.... maybe there *is* something to demographic determinism, after all. Many of the usual commenters are here and have claimed membership in the GJ cohort. Me, too (1959).

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at December 7, 2004 12:33 PM

I've always objected to the idea that someone like me, born a few months before Sputnik, has something in common with a baby-boomer born in 1949. The biggest differece is that my parents were themselves children during WWII while the boomer's parents were adults. I was my parents first child, not their fifth. The Beatles, for example, meant nothing to me. For me, the 60s were astronauts. We got the leftovers of the sixties-- think Ford and Carter. College was a vacuum where guidance was not provided as the boomers moved on to get jobs in the administration (Carter and university).

But so much of this is just numerology.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 7, 2004 12:46 PM

Great, it's some kind of Little Rascals Clubhouse.

Orrin C. Judd '61

Posted by: oj at December 7, 2004 1:24 PM


Oh, nice try. If I can't do anything about where I was born, you can't do anything about when you were born. Peace, man.

Posted by: Peter B at December 7, 2004 1:39 PM

I guess I should put my two cents in as well. I was born in 1962. So can I come in the clubhouse too?

Posted by: Brandon at December 7, 2004 1:41 PM

I'm a Jonesian as well, along with She Who Is Perfect In All Ways. Unlike the later "natalist" article, this one actually bears some resemblance to me.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 7, 2004 5:06 PM

SJP, 1960.

I like how the years keep changing.

Boomers ended in either 60 or 64, now 65.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 7, 2004 5:42 PM

As a founding member (57) of Generation Jones, I vote that we find a new name.

I don't really think that we deserve our own generation designation, we're a subclass of a generation. Generation generally connoted a cohort within a timespan of 25-30 years, but boundary drawing is always an arbitrary exercise, especially if you are trying to capture common experiential and demographic characteristics.

OJ got it right as far as the expectation to fight in Vietnam as a formative factor. Another one is that Jones' lack of attachment to the Kennedy mythos. We were all too young to care much about the assassinations of Jack and Bobby.

Posted by: Robert Duquette at December 8, 2004 11:59 AM

As a Bicentennial Baby and hence a Gen Xer (by some people's definitions, anyway), to all the foregoing I can only say "Whatever."

Posted by: Random Lawyer at December 8, 2004 3:12 PM

1955 makes me a 'tweener, it seems.

Missed an opportunity to get drafted by a year or two. Despite that, went right into ROTC (which provided an object lesson in getting pilloried for a thought crime).

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at December 9, 2004 7:04 AM