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Seniors and Voting: Trends & Issues That Matter to Them

As the race for President heats up again, we thought it would be interesting to take a look at the role our seniors play in elections. How do they vote? What motivates them to stay involved? How much of the electorate do they account for?

Conventional wisdom has always been that older adults vote in greater percentages. But do those voter statistics hold true as Baby Boomers begin to retire?

Senior Citizen Voting Statistics

A U.S. News Money Report examined voter trends in the 2010 election and found:

  • The highest voter turnout was adults age 65 and older.  61% of our seniors voted.
  • Young adults had the worst voting record. Just 21% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 showed up and voted.
  • Age 45 seems to be the tipping point in voter turnout. Only 37% of adults 25 to 44 voted compared with 54% of people between the age of 45 and 64 who cast a ballot.

The 2012 Presidential Election showed seniors turning out in even higher numbers. 70% of older adults voted, compared with fewer than 60% of the overall population.

The statistics seem to indicate the older you are, the more likely you are to vote.

Why Seniors Vote

Older voters show up in greater numbers for a variety of reasons. Among them are:

  • Protect their Social Security and Medicare. For retirees, maintaining these benefits is a driving force that motivates them to vote. According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, Social Security saved 22 million people —about 40% of our seniors — from falling below the poverty line in 2013. The same holds true for Medicare. Without this benefit, the cost of health care would be out of reach for many.
  • Seniors stay put in their homes. This generation of older adults is less likely to move from one home to another. Many have lived in the same house for several decades. They register to vote and know where to vote. It’s more difficult for young adults who have to register to vote and track down where to go to vote each time they move.
  • Sense of duty. On the whole, seniors who make up the older generation feel a strong sense patriotism. Voting is both a privilege and a duty for them.
  • More free time. Another reason older adults show up to vote in greater numbers than their middle-aged children is they have more free time. They aren’t working and juggling the demands of raising a family. A trip to the polls with peers often turns in to a social outing that is planned weeks in advance.

Party Affiliations for Seniors

An interesting trend about our senior voters that was researched and shared by Gallup relates to party affiliation. It showed how many of today’s Republican seniors were actually Democrats in younger years.

Looking back to 1993, Gallup found Americans who were between the ages of 45 and 79 were Democrats by a 12-point margin. Today, that group makes up our senior population and they have migrated to the right to become Republicans.

As we head toward another Presidential election in 2016, it will be interesting to see if historical senior voting statistics remain unchanged or if new trends among our oldest voters will emerge. Stay tuned…