Wednesday, 18 April 2012
Why Do So Many Elders Vote Conservative?
Back in January, I asked the question: Are you more conservative or more liberal than when you were younger?
The responses were nearly 100 percent “more liberal” or “always liberal” but that is to be expected on this blog. Conservatives don't hang out here for long.
However the majority of us at Time Goes By lean politically, the fact is that elders mostly vote conservative/Republican. According to a Project Vote study reported by McClatchy, in the 2010 midterm election, "It is fair to say that 2010 was the year of older, rich people.”
“Senior citizens turned out in force — their turnout was 16 percent higher than in the last midterm election of 2006, and 59 percent of them voted Republican, up 10 percentage points from 2006.
“While voters 65 and older are about 13 percent of the U.S. population, they made up 21 percent of this year's electorate.”
You can see the elder conservative bent in this year's Republican debate videos and in news footage of Mitt Romney's campaign rallies – not many young faces in those audiences.
A few weeks ago, Jack Cafferty – who, himself, leans conservative – asked on CNN: “Why is Mitt Romney so popular with senior citizens?” As he noted in his lead-in:
”Exit polls from Super Tuesday show voters 65 and older were among Romney's staunchest supporters. In the crucial state of Ohio, he beat Rick Santorum in this age group by 15 points. Even in Tennessee, where Romney lost, he still won seniors.
“Seniors were also key to Romney's earlier victories in Michigan, Nevada and Florida - and they were the only age group he won in Iowa.”
A large number of self-identified elders responded to Cafferty's question by exclaiming their dislike of Romney. (Many other commenters – not to mention Cafferty himself – were remarkably ageist, but that's a story for another day.)
It is not inconceivable that in the primaries, elder Republicans have been voting for Romney as the least conservative person on the ticket although personally, I do not believe for a second he is any less conservative than the other Republican candidates; he is just more reassuringly bland-looking than the others.
However all that shakes out, the numbers cannot be argued with. Elders as a group vote more for conservatives than for liberals/progressives which contradicts a study [pdf] I quoted in my January story that
”...analyzed data from the U.S. General Social Surveys of 46,510 Americans between 1972 and 2004...[and] assessed attitudes on politics, economics, race, gender, religion and sexuality issues.”
The research indicates the reverse of the elder, conservative stereotype:
"'It's just not true," says Nicholas Danigelis. 'More people are changing in a liberal direction than in a conservative direction.'”
Emerging newer studies are confirming Danigelis's work, which doesn't jibe with elder voting statistics.
A few days after the 2010 midterms Kevin Drum, writing at Mother Jones, asked “why did [elders] suddenly decide to vote en masse for Republicans?”
Drum quoted a Republican pollster who believed elders voted for conservatives because they were afraid that President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act would affect them negatively which was a complete misconception.
Why were seniors concerned about this?” wrote Drum. “No fancy political science is needed here: the answer is tens of millions of dollars spent on demagogic advertising like this. There's no need to get any more complicated about it.”
The problem, of course, is that there is not a word of truth in that campaign video and I think there is a lot to what Kevin Drum is saying. However, please do not take my agreement to mean that I think elders are dumber or more gullible than younger people. Voters of all ages see this stuff and unquestionably accept it.
Now, back to the question at the top: give all this some thought, if you will, and tell us what you think about elders voting for conservatives. Why do so many traditionally vote against their own best interests and do you think they will do so this year?
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Dorothy Moffitt: My Hospital Adventure