Friday, May 16, 2014

Grandma to the Rescue!

There has been a lot of discussion about different groups of voters and their effects on elections. One of the general assumptions in all of these discussions is that older voters skew conservative, which is one of the reasons Republican candidates tend to do better in low-turnout, midterm elections, since seniors make up a higher portion of the electorate in off-years.  In a recent piece in The Atlantic, David Frum has some interesting analysis of the changing electoral impact of senior citizens:
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.
Frum argues that we tend to think of older voters as a monolithic group. The reality, however, is that there are some striking differences within that cohort that could have significant impacts as the large group of Baby-Boomers grows older. The first of these factors is sheer age, and the fact that the longer people live, the more they appreciate (and rely on) government assistance. And you'd better believe these voters know which party is trying to gut Medicare and Social Security and which party is trying to strengthen them.
The older you get, the more you appreciate Social Security and Medicare …
... and the more you mistrust proposals for reform that might affect current recipients. In 2009, 43 percent of people in their twenties were open to reforms in entitlements that might touch those now receiving Social Security and Medicare; only 27 percent of people in the strongly conservative groups older than 65 would consider it. 
As yet, few published surveys break out the differences between people in their sixties and eighties. Working politicians notice it, though. As one very successful political operative told me, “The No. 1 concern of every voter over 80 is, ‘Will my check arrive on time?'”
The other difference among older voters is a difference we see in all age-groups: namely, a majority of women voters prefer Democratic policies.
Rutgers University’s Center for American Women and Politics has detailed in surveys women’s rejection of the politics of economic individualism. 
Do government programs for the poor help put people on their feet—or lead to dependency for life? Men condemn such programs for inducing dependency 49-44. Women applaud them for setting people on their feet, 60-36. 
What do you think is the bigger problem: unfairness in the economy favoring the wealthy, or overregulation that interferes with the free market? Men worry more about overregulation, 49-42. Women worry more about unfairness, 54-35. 
When it comes to balancing the budget, 57 percent of men wish to rely principally on cutting programs. Only 50 percent of women agree. Only 22 percent of men wish to rely principally on tax increases, versus 29 percent of women. 
This gap in values produces a large gap in voting—a gap that manifests itself at every age.
The difference is that women and men are equally represented in most age-groups, but not among the oldest of the old. More women live very long lives, and as the baby-boomers age, that is a whole lot more older women voting more liberally.
The elderly population is poised to grow hugely quickly; the oldest of the old to grow faster still. Between 2000 and 2010, the total population grew 9.7 percent; the population older than 65, by 15.1 percent; the population older than 80, by 23 percent. That last group now numbers more than 11.2 million—and demographers expect it to grow even faster over the decades ahead. 
Here’s at least one obvious way this change will affect older voters. Among all voters 65-plus, women outnumber men only slightly: In 2010, for every 100 women older than 65, the Census counted 95.5 men. The political result? The mild preference in favor of President Obama among older women voters was swamped by the intense hostility of older men. 
As we advance from age cohort to age cohort, however, the men dwindle away. At 75, the Census counts 80.2 men for every 100 women; at 85, 58.3 men for every 100 women. The good news for men: Our survival prospects are rising! In 1990, the Census counted only 45.6 men for every 100 women older than 85. The bad news for the Republicans: The disparity in sex-survival rates has huge political effects on the way the old vote. 
In 2010, the old as a group voted Republican because the lopsided hostility toward Obama among older men could overwhelm the mild preference for the president among older women. As the population ages, however, the ratio of men to women within the over-65 population should drop. The share of over-80s in the population is rising faster than men’s likelihood of surviving to 80. The changing sex ratio will sway the political outlook of the whole group.
As the Baby-Boomers age, the "You (black) kids get off my lawn!" voters will make up a smaller portion of those mid-term stalwarts the Republican Party has relied on, replaced by the Wise Old Women who (once again, always) will save our bacon.

Go Grandma!

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