SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News, I'm Scott Simon. And this week on NPR we've been looking at the widening political divide between generations. Today, one group that's divided among itself, Generation X. They've grown up now. They're in their 30s and 40s, starting to feel the pressures of family life, caring for children, starting to worry about retirement. As NPR Jennifer Ludden reports Generation X is hard to peg, politically or otherwise.
JENNIFER LUDDEN, BYLINE: When older Gen Xers came of age, it was "Morning in America." President Reagan was wildly popular. The smartest college grads headed to Wall Street, which gave rise to a generational icon in Gordon Gekko.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "WALL STREET")
LUDDEN: Just a few years later younger Gen Xers identified with the saxophone-playing President Clinton. They were dubbed the MTV Generation, defined by slackers and grunge like Nirvana's anthem to Apathy.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANTHEM TO APATHY")
MICHAEL DIMOCK: They are a generation that was brought up in the boom days to some extent.
LUDDEN: Michael Dimock is with the Pew Research Center.
DIMOCK: Their early adulthood was the 1990s, and those were great times and now this economy has turned around on them and many of them are feeling more pinched than any other generation.
LUDDEN: A new Pew survey on generational politics finds a big spike in Gen Xers concern about their personal financial situation. Dimock says for many the impact of the recession seems to be cumulative.
DIMOCK: When we interviewed Xers two years ago they weren't thinking about retirement. They had other problems, but now they are becoming increasingly worried about having enough money to get through their retirement.
LUDDEN: And that's true for people like Dan Sullivan, just 36 years old with decades of employment ahead of him.
DAN SULLIVAN: I don't see myself retiring. I don't think it's possible.
LUDDEN: Sullivan's pushing his 3-month-old son in a stroller in downtown Frederick, Maryland, a colonial-era town of red brick storefronts. He's an active duty soldier, so says he's been sheltered from a lot of the economic turmoil, but like a third of Xers, he's lost faith in the social programs set up to cushion old age.
SULLIVAN: I don't think Social Security's going to be there for us. And Medicare, I don't think that's going to be there, and even if so, I mean, at this point I kind of don't want the government's Medicare. I mean, really I think you have to plan to be totally independent at this point.
LUDDEN: Although Sullivan admits that doesn't actually seem possible either. Sullivan's a life long Conservative but he's not thrilled with any of the GOP presidential candidates. In a hypothetical match up between President Obama and Mitt Romney:
SULLIVAN: I'd probably lean a little bit more towards Romney, but I don't think he's all that great either.
LUDDEN: A block away, 33-year-old Leah Fuhrman-Fell sits with her dog outside the Starbucks where she's a barista.
LEAH FUHRMAN-FELL: Obviously I'm not making any money right now for retirement.
LUDDEN: Though she's making plans to get back into her former field of internet marketing, and Fuhrman-Fell's fiance is a gainfully employed architect. Still like many Gen Xers they had the misfortune to buy their house at the height of the market.
FUHRMAN-FELL: Oh, we're screwed. The house next door to us went into foreclosure for less than half what we paid, so we'll never leave.
LUDDEN: Fuhrman-Fell is a lifelong Liberal, though like many Gen Xers, says she's open to persuasion. As a group, Gen X leaned Democratic in 2008 and Republican in the 2010 midterms. Fuhrman-Fells says she likes some Republican politicians but none are moderate enough to get her vote.
FUHRMAN-FELL: But I still really like, you know, Barack Obama. I think that he's been too nice but I think if he comes in for a second term he'll do what he wants to do and I hope that's what he does.
LUDDEN: Today the Pew survey finds the majority of Generation X has an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, and most are disappointed with President Obama. They're not as down on him as older voters, but then researcher Michael Dimock says the older generation never got on the Obama bandwagon to start with.
DIMOCK: I think the Xers and boomers in some respects have moved farther on Obama, going from being supporters of him to being at least on the fence if not somewhat unhappy with what he's done.
LUDDEN: Pew finds an even split in Gen X support for President Obama and Mitt Romney. Those on either side though say they're waiting to be impressed. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News.
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