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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Generations, Cold War Memories, and Russia

Philip Bump at WP:
I guess we're far enough along with this newsletter that I can make a confession: I am a member of Generation X.... We were the youngest Americans to experience the Cold War firsthand. Again, not really; I at no time flew a U-2 plane over Kamchatka or anything. But when we played good guy/bad guy games, the bad guys were Russians and not terrorists.

And now we come to a chart. This is via the Economist, which conducts regular, detailed polling with YouGov. (An aside: It's really great polling with lots of questions and trends over time. Go look.)
How to read this chart? Fairly simple. I wanted to balance sympathy for Ukraine on one side with sympathy for Russia on the other, but the “neither”s made that slightly more complicated. So I made “neither” the middle point, preserving (I hope!) the sense of balance.

You should perceive, then, that sympathy for Ukraine is far higher with older Americans than younger ones. Younger Americans still sympathize with Ukraine on net, but it's far more lopsided as you get older.

Bringing me to my thesis. Part of reading a chart, of course, is understanding the implications of the chart. So: This is a graph of familiarity with the Cold War.

I can't prove that empirically here, but the dates line up. If you are 29 or younger, you were born in 1993 or later, meaning after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. If you are aged 30 to 44, you were probably born sometime between 1978 and 1992, meaning that you probably no more than a preteen when that collapse occurred. Perhaps you similarly grew up with Russians as America's default enemy, but not in the same way.