The Republican Advantage Among Older Voters Won’t Last

tags: Republican, Older Voters

David Frum is a senior editor at The Atlantic.

Republicans are expected to score gains in 2014 because of their advantage among older voters, the voters most likely to turn out in midterm elections. That advantage has appeared surprisingly recently—and there is reason to think it won’t last long.

In 1988, voters older than 60 were the age group least likely to vote for George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis. The disparity was not huge: Bush would still have won even if the only votes counted had been cast by those older than 60. But it’s still suggestive that Bush ran strongest among the “Silent Generation” cohort just slightly too young to remember the Depression and World War II—and that he performed worst among those who personally remembered the New Deal, who had been of age to benefit from the G.I. Bill, and who now received Social Security and Medicare.

In the presidential election of 2000, Al Gore won 51 percent of the vote among those older than 65. Each younger cohort was incrementally less likely to vote for him. He did worst among those 18 to 24, who broke 47 percent for Gore, 47 percent for Bush and 5 percent for Ralph Nader.

The emergence of the older voters as a massively solid Republican bloc is a post-Obama phenomenon.

The Pew survey explained the trend in a 2011 report. The Silent Generation that voted for Bush in 1988 had retained its conservatism into its retirement years. No news there. The news was among the next cohort, the Baby Boomers: After the year 2000, the Woodstock generation veered abruptly to the right.

In their youth, the Boomers had expressed strongly liberal views about the role of government. In 1989, asked to choose between a bigger government that did more for people versus a smaller government that did less, they opted for bigger government by a margin of 52-40. By 2007, that preference had reversed itself, 52-35, and it has remained reversed through the Obama years. Even more striking was the collapse in trust in government among the Boomers: In 1997, 38 percent of them trusted the government to do the right thing most of the time; by 2009, only 16 percent did so, the same suspicious percentage as their formerly more conservative “silent” elders...

Read entire article at The Atlantic

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