Seniors Showing Change of Political Heart

 
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The Hill, the weekly paper paper written for U.S. Congress, has touched on an important issue: seniors’ political leanings. To anyone in the know this is vital to US politics, it is because seniors will make up the biggest demographic in the United States in just a few years and even still they are overwhelmingly the Americans who vote. Who they vote for determines who makes the rules, which will affect all of us.

The Democratic-Republican Divide

Most people assign the following stereotypes to Democrats and Republicans: the former are seen as bleeding heart liberals who want to legalize everything under the sun, while the latter are interested in making the rich richer and the poor poorer.

But thinking that way is far from the political truth. The main difference between Democrats and Republicans is how they view the size of the government. Republicans like their federal government to be small and have a relatively hands-off role in each state, while Liberals want the federal government to be there in tough times.

How this affects seniors is the older someone gets, the more assistance they tend to need. This doesn’t necessarily mean they need assistance in the form of a social net, but just that their bodies start to break down and they need help keeping going. And the size of their government and the amount of help that’s available makes a big difference on who they’ll vote for.

The Big Change

The Hill reports that over the last 20 years, seniors have begun to shift away from being Democrats and identify more strongly as Republicans. They use data from a Gallup poll that shows a distinct preference for Republican ideals since 2010, with the information dating back as far as 1992.

The Gallup poll also shows that in elections from 1992 to 2004, seniors voted for the Democratic candidate in their riding, with the peak coming in 1992 when they favored Bill Clinton by a 17-point margin. However, the big shift came in the last two elections when seniors broke away from tradition and voted for a Republican over a Democrat.

Why Have Seniors Changed Political Views?

As suggested before, one reason seniors vote Republican or Democrat is because of their changing needs, but that’s almost too subtle of an explanation. Instead, both Gallup and The Hill suggest that the switch is because of race, with two pieces of information to look at:

 

  • More seniors age 65+ are non-Hispanic white (85%) than non-whites
  • 54% of people age 18-29 are non-Hispanic white
  • 53% of non-Hispanic white seniors (65+) vote Republican, while 40% vote Democrat
  • 18% of non-white seniors vote Republican, while 76% vote Democrat

 

This suggests a few things. First, that the racial divide in young adulthood is almost 50-50 but somehow, non-whites don’t live as long as their non-Hispanic white counterparts (do they not get as much support and assistance to keep them living longer?).

Second, the older a non-white gets, particularly if they reach senior age, they tend to feel that the Democratic party offers them more than the Republican one, while non-Hispanic white seniors feel the Republican party has more of their interests at heart.

Seniorhood is a time of life when people are particularly interested in protecting their own selves and interests, ranging from health to finances, and political parties represent the most direct line to that protection. It’s interesting to note how the changes occur.