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Seniors: Republican or Democratic?

We often tie political ideas to certain ages. For example, it’s a commonly held belief that seniors always vote for the Republican party. However, this isn’t the case.

Historically, seniors have voted both Republican and Democratic. There is the occasional sway to one side, but senior voting dynamics often shift. In this article, we cover the topics that influence senior voters for each party. 

Seniors That Vote Republican

voting

There are several factors that contribute to the high volume of seniors that vote Republican. These factors include the voting time period, race, and sense of patriotism:

  • Time period. In 1993, 39% of middle aged adults and seniors voted for the Republican party. In 2003, this number rose to 45%. The increase is likely a result of 9/11. In 2001, the events that occurred on 9/11 caused terrorism to be an imminent concern for the senior population. Because the Republican party placed greater emphasis on combatting terrorism, this won over many votes.

    In 2013, data showed that 48% of seniors voted for the Republican party. Over the course of Obama’s time in office, many seniors felt let down by the Democratic party. This increase is likely due to the change in seniors’ attitudes towards Obama’s administration.
  • Race. Race seems to play a large role in party affiliation. In 2013, studies showed that 53% of non-Hispanic Caucasian voters ages 65 and older voted Republican. In contrast, only 18% of non-Caucasian voters ages 65 and older voted Republican.

    A large number of these non-Hispanic Caucasian voters were also avid church-goers. They tended to vote Republican because the Republican platform aligns closely with their religious values. The Republican party and many churches are against abortion and gay rights.
  • Patriotism. The Republican party focuses on issues such as gun laws, terrorism, national debt, and the military—which resonates strongly with many seniors. Most of these seniors grew up during World War II and have a strong sense of patriotism. These patriotic seniors associate the Republican party with American pride. 

Seniors That Vote Democratic

diverse group of people

Factors that deterred Republican votes may inversely encourage votes for the Democratic party.

  • Time period. In 1993, 51% of middle aged adults and seniors leaned towards the Democratic party. At this time, popularity for the Democratic party was highly correlated to Bill Clinton’s popularity with seniors. However, in 2003, that number dropped to 47%. At this time, George Bush, a Republican, was favored by seniors.

    In 2013, the number of seniors aligned with the Democratic party dropped to 45%.  In 2012, many seniors preferred Mitt Romney, a Republican, due to his stance on healthcare. This could explain the slight dip in the amount of voters aligned with the Democratic party.
  • Race. Race largely affects seniors that choose the Democratic party. Data from 2013 shows that 40% of non-Hispanic Caucasian voters ages 65 and older preferred the Democratic party. 76% of non-Caucasian voters had a Democratic preference.

    A large number of these non-Caucasian seniors were a part of minority races. They voiced that they preferred the Democratic party mainly because they felt the Republican party did not strive for equal rights. This explains the high contribution to non-Caucasian seniors who are Democratic.
  • Senior Safety Net. Seniors who vote Democratic strongly identify with having a senior safety net and Social Security. Many Republican advocates want to eliminate Obamacare. However, the Democratic party plans to expand Social Security to widows and caregivers. This plan won over a majority of seniors.

Which Party Do Seniors Favor?

colorful states

The answer is: neither. The number of Republic and Democratic seniors have always been fairly close.

Seniors won’t always vote solely because of their party preference. Sometimes, the nominee is the most significant factor for seniors. This causes cross-party voting.

One example of this is when Bill Clinton was elected into office in 1992. Clinton was a Democratic nominee. However, the majority of his senior voters were considered Republicans. When polled, it showed that many seniors believed that Clinton was not your typical Democratic nominee. This reinforces the idea that although political parties are important, they won’t determine the outcome of an election.

The 2016 election is just days away. Seniors are the most reliable voters and the presidential candidates know how important it is to secure their votes. Here are the ways each political party nominee is attempting to appeal to senior voters this election:

The Democratic Nominee: Hillary Clinton

clinton smiling
  • Establishing common ground. One of the ways that Clinton establishes credibility with older voters is through senior volunteers. Clinton has senior volunteers speak with other senior citizens to encourage them to vote. This helps confirm votes for Clinton because senior volunteers can relate to seniors’ struggles.
  • Promoting her grandma status. Aside from potentially being the first female president, Clinton would be the first president to be a grandma. Clinton speaks at public events about the joys of being a grandma and how she aspires to make the world better for her granddaughter. These speeches resonate strongly with the senior population.

The Republican Nominee: Donald Trump

trump smilling
  • Catering to seniors’ sense of patriotism. To appeal to the older population, Trump caters to their sense of patriotism. His campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” resonates with senior citizens. His strategy for obtaining the senior citizen vote is to target seniors who feel the country has failed them.
  • Criticizing Obama’s administration. In the 2012 election, Obama had very few senior supporters due to his proposal of Medicare cuts. Through critiquing Obama and his administration, Trump has earned the support of anti-Obama seniors. They believe that Trump will bring to the table what Obama wasn’t able to.

Choose Who’s Right for You

It’s a societal assumption that seniors generally vote for the Republican party.  However, many seniors also choose to vote for the Democratic party.

Seniors shouldn’t feel obligated to honor their party affiliations when they cast their vote. Some may classify themselves as Republican and others as Democratic. However, these are just titles –not a commitment to vote for a specific party. At the end of the day, it’s simply about choosing the best person for the job. 

Comments

4:24 PM on November 2, 2016 James Christopher
I've been a democrat my entire life and dont plan on changing any time soon. Unions were always important in the steel mills where I worked for 30+ years. Not a big fan on Hilary but much better than Trump.
4:43 PM on November 2, 2016 Ken Thomas
I'll always be a Republican at any age
5:33 PM on November 3, 2016 Arthur Wong
Nobody can make up their mind this year
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