How Many Elders are Online?

Why Do So Many Elders Vote Conservative?

category_bug_politics.gif 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


I think elders watch TV more and listen more to the news. The young people I know are rarely involved in political news as they are trying to balance a budget and raise a family.

I can only guess based on the elders I know personally. They watch Fox. They watch a lot of TV and hence get a lot of ads. They don't like paying for anybody else's benefits because they feel they earned unemployment, their government pensions, their medicare, SS, but those 'others' they did not. They don't have an attitude that government is about us. To them it's about the 'others'. A lot of them even resent public education. I don't know if all elders who vote right are this way, just the ones I know-- online or off.

People vote for what they feel benefits them; and if they can't see we are all the 'other', I have found it very hard to convince them otherwise. The other thing with a lot of these elder righties is they often live and gather with people like themselves-- big communities where they are all the same and they reinforce each other. IF Obama cannot get out the youth vote, with all the ads that will be out there, talking like Cheney did most recently, he'll lose despite all the reasons that Romney is not going to help one single ordinary person in any age group. They buy into the ads. They believe Fox.

I might add, the young people I know best are very involved politically and liberals but not unthinking rather concerned for their kids' future-- but they are my family.


It only makes better sense that as a person gets older, they require and search out additional help. That help is derived from the progressive measures society has endeared to their Seniors. Ie; "Respect thy Mother and Father"

The only logic I can see in this story is this relationship Seniors have with the media outlets - wrongful political campaigns and (more likely) FOX News.

Good story, tho . . .!

Many of us are afraid of what comes next as we age, are afraid of losing our autonomy, are afraid of changes in ourselves and the world that render old truths no longer applicable.

One of our political parties inflames fear; many of us identify with generalized fears, for numerous, often individual, sometimes rational, reasons. A democracy oscillates between hope and fear. A democratic polity in balance provides both. We don't have that at present.

Elders are unfortunately all too easy to herd to the fear side of things.

If we don't like that -- and I sure don't -- this is one more reason to struggle against agism. If being old didn't mean being treated like a dependent child, more of us could approach our inevitable end with more dignity and courage -- and would be less subject to the demagoguery of fear.

There are only 2 other liberal minded women in my social a devoted fan of Stewart & Colbert. The others, thank goodness, deliberately avoid talking about politics & yes, some are FOX groupies. The most recurring theme among them is "the welfare crowd that works the system." This is especially apparent since the area is very socio-economically depressed. For example, everyone shuts up if I mention that education deserves our attention & money if this country is to once again gain a global stronghold. So mostly, I remain quiet, but occasionally I try to say something that will promote some other viewpoint. Dee

Changes such as hardening of the synapses. Combine this with fear and the fact that as we grow older we are often less out in the world.

Just muttering.

I agree mostly with Rain's comments as far as people voting for what they perceive will benefit them, and that many now isolate themselves in communities reflecting only themselves and their interests, leaving them as out of touch with the average person, not unlike the leading Republican candidate who is accused of this.

I wonder about the populations being reported on in the research that refutes the conservative elder stereotype. Is this a change in what has historically been the case over the past 40-50 years, reflecting the trends set by the babyboomers? I would hope that the boomers are changing some of the data, towards the more liberal and progressive side of the scale. That said, I have to say that while many of my friends seem to have maintained their liberal inclinations over the past three to four decades, some, as they have fared much better financially, seem to have moved to the "dog in the manger" side of the spectrum, and I suspect that their voting patterns have changed in the process.

I have seen many older people that I am associated with become not only more and more conservative but also racist as they age and I am appalled when I listen to them. They too listen to fox. I am beginning to feel that I stick out like a sore thumb when I am with them.I have been friends with some of them since grade school so I knew them when. Now that they have theirs, the ones coming behind us can just do without. If I bring up the fact that most republican politicians want to eliminate Medicare and Social Security they all tell me that will never happen. Hello, time to get your head out of the sand. I truly believe that if we get a Republican President and republican house & senate, we can say goodbye to SS and Medicare as we know them. Sorry I rattled on. Don't even get me started on the war on women! I am surprised I have not stroked out by now.

To be honest, I can't answer your question.

I wonder if the same elder group were in the Republican majority when they were young and remain conservative in their old age. I hate to put the rigid 'set int their ways' label on them, but it does apply to some elders I know.

I also think the mentality of "I've got mine, now try to get yours" is part of the problem. It's a feeling of entitlement that I see all too often in my peer group.

I have found that if I try to point out facts to my conservative peers they just shut down and don't want to hear it. They have convinced themselves that they are right and 'don't confuse me with the facts; my mind's made up.' Are they mentally lazy perhaps?

I recently had a dust up with my son and I apologized saying that with age should come wisdom, but it doesn't always happen. And, yes, I do think they will continue to vote against their own best interest this year.

I had to add another thought, that's gnawing at me.

I have observed something troubling over the past several years of working with people in extreme poverty, mostly homeless families, and seriously mentally ill individuals. The program with which I worked for almost a decade before leaving to become a fulltime caregiver for a family member, is affiliated with a church. The church happens to be Episcopalian, and is considered one of the more liberal and progressive in the community. I have worked closely enough with the pillars of that church, and heard comments from enough of the parishioners, to know that even among those who would self-report as liberal, that many harbor very conservative beliefs when it comes to people in poverty, and many tend to categorize them into the "deserving" and "undeserving". Many people seem to think that they can discern someone's true nature by their current state of affairs. I suspect that people in this camp, and it appears to me to be a very large camp, may present themselves one way in more public settings, but may express conflicting views in more private settings, such as a voting booth. Just a thought, but based on lots of personal experience.

Living in a conservative state, but from a liberal part of the US, I've learned the hard way to simply listen. Over the years, I've learned a lot about people, friend and foe and I am always surprised.
My opinion of the conservative bent is that this age group (I am 77) may listen to TV a lot, but they don't hear! And maybe most of all, they don't understand or recognize spin. It really is disheartening. My few liberal friends share my views and our place on the rolls of the "minority" elders. Like it or not! None of us watch Fox...and are on the brink of giving up cable tv. PBS is the only way to get a fairly balanced idea of what's going on. All of this, only my opinion, of course.

If most elders are conservatives, the only reasons I can think of are herd mentality and fear. What happened to independent critical thinking? As long as your brain still works, use it. Neither major party has all the answers, and certainly no one TV network does. And it's a cinch the truth doesn't come through advertising. It's okay if your food must be spoonfed, but not your thoughts, not your politics. I started my adult life as a Goldwater Republican, gradually moved to being a Gore Democrat, and then washed my hands of them all and registered independent. I vote issues and candidates, not party.

I am a registered Republican in Florida. I voted for Romney in the primary, but he will not get my vote in November. I am more liberal now than when I was first voting at age 21 in 1966. I follow the political news now more than I did then, also. I am concerned about education and health care for all. It seems a shame that in the United States there are people who don't have a roof over their heads, cannot afford basic health care, and are unable to afford an education that will help them succeed in life. I don't know what the solution is, but I know we need to do something to help these people.

When the 2004 elections were heating up, I tried to talk to my 85 year old mother about not voting against her best interests (Bush). She quietly said that Bush was against abortion and that she would always vote for the person who was against abortion. (sigh)

Darlene and Cathy nailed it. I'm seeing exactly the same phenomenon: Me, mine, but not yours.

But I have a very liberal friend who startled me by stating she was against Obama's health care plan because she didn't want her Medicare tampered with. She listens to CNN and MSNBC, so she's not a Fox devotee, but she bought into the fear factor big time. The administration did a poor job of explaining what the bill would accomplish; I just became eligible for Medicare and was surprised at the added benefits from Obamacare.

I am an unrepentant liberal/progressive who refuses to watch Fox anything and plan to work for Obama's campaign. (And I am not totally enchanted with him either.)

I can't believe how many elders insist upon voting against their own interest.

There's no rocket science here. The older demographic is afraid of losing what it has, and the GOP plays on those fears.

I think that those elders who vote Republican are simply voting as they have always voted. It's a habit with them.

Do you think that they could possibly understand the issues and still vote Republican? How could they when the very programs that we elders depend on most (Social Security and Medicare) would be the first to go in a Romney Administration?

Today I read in the paper that the food stamp program was going to be drastically cut if Romney was elected.

That goes over real well with the Fox News crowd because we all "Know" how those people cheat the system with their food stamps.

Never mind that most of them are feeding their children. The imagined image of the Food Stamp Mother is of somehow Cheating the system by ,God Forbid,buying her kids some ice cream with the stamps. Horrors!

They never give a thought to the business people who take the 3 hour lunches at the best restaurants, then deduct the cost as a business expense. It would take about 20 Food stamp moms to come close to the cheating on expenses by one business person every day in this country.

I cannot understand elders,women,students depending on grants or loans,
or anyone in their right mind voting for Mitt Romney.


I don't live in an elder enclave of all white people, and I don't watch Fox. I have no sympathy for reactionary old people. I don't hang around with conservative and reactionaary people of any age, and I don't understand why anyone should have to listen to them and their dumb ideas.
About such people I am very close minded and intolerant.

Several of my friends crossed over and voted in Republican in the primaries to cast a ballot for the person least unlikely to unseat Obama. However anecdotes don't signify a trend.

Fox News. And it isn't just elders. I really don't think most people have a clue what their best interests are economically. They mostly vote on social issues and elders tend to have more conservative views socially.

Remember the book "What's the Matter with Kansas?" that looked at why people vote against their own best interests? The same is true here.

Essentially, the argument is that the Republicans have been masters at framing the issues and telling stories that appeal to voters, while Democrats argue with facts and figures. People like stories; they believe in stories. If the Democrats would get smart and learn to frame issues in appealing stories, they'd get more votes.

Sad but true--the facts don't win votes.

My old relatives and friends identify with the rich and their interests against the non-rich. Their ss, medicare, small pensions and dividends make them think they are rich even though they are really middle,middle class or lower middle class. This results in a wedge of people who stand between the 1 percent and justice and mercy for all of us.

I'm with Possumlady. These people hear one thing (anti-abortion) and vote because of that. When they hear that one phrase it doesn't matter what else the candidate is for. Stupid.

Racism, selfishness, fear and stupidity.

It doesn't help that the Democrats are so disorganized.

I think Nancy nailed it. Democrats seem to be helpless when it comes to rebutting Republican lies. People don't want to hear the truth when Fox "news" is so much more comforting.

It really is hard to pin point any single item. janinsanfran's comments hit some likely possibilities.

Adding to that, I think religion plays a role in how elders tend to side with the GOP. The right is good at creating the image of "godless liberals" and as people get older I think they tend to shore up their religious beliefs as they get closer to "meeting their maker", so to speak.

Thus it is perhaps in their best spiritual interest (or so they think) to vote for those who portray themselves more aligned with conventional religious views. Sadly they are unaware how distant today's conservative values are from core Christian values.

This makes sense to me because I will never forget back in 2004 when I was out knocking on doors trying to get people interested in Howard Dean, I had one elderly lady tell me, when she realized I wasn't representing George Bush, that she was "going to vote for the Christian." She said this as she was closing the door ever so slowly in my face.

Democrats seem to be helpless when it comes to rebutting Republican lies.

I can't add anything to what has been said other than Progressives need to realize that "the best defense is a good offense". While nothing will change conservative minds mired in cement, I have to believe there are still some thinking Repubs out there, as well as true Independents.

The reasons I hear for supporting the Republican Party include:

1) a belief Repubs. support small State diversified govt. versus Demos. large centralized govt.
2) social issues - Repubs. against abortion, birth control
3) religion - Repubs. want candidate who proclaims belief which automatically means he's righteous and honest
4) they watch Fox news a lot
5) always vote Repub.
6) fear/belief that all Demo. liberal actions will be extreme far left
7) convinced radical budget cuts must all be made now
8) fear of socialized medicine
9) belief that all with medical needs get care
10) all the old stereotypical views about how those who don't work should get a job
11) lack of empathy for people they don't know
12) more.......

I was shocked last election when a Demo. supporting H. Clinton switched vote to Repub. candidate. Person was not responsive to considering larger issues leaving me wondering if racism was a factor.

One woman pridefully says determining political/govt. issues for voting are not of interest to her -- up to her husband who tells her how to vote.

Fortunately, others I know are more interested in examining issues -- often may be Independents, Democrats, etc.

I always chuckle when my mom rails against socialized health care...and then makes another appointment with her doctor. Why she cannot make the leap that she IS on socialized medicine makes no sense to me.
I don't know why people vote against their own best interests. My only guess is that people don't like change. That is why it is important to establish party affiliation when they are young.

Conserve:"to keep in a safe or sound state ; especially : to avoid wasteful or destructive use of ...(anything)."
The young are reaching for the brass ring and the elders are holding tight to what they have and are loath to share it with anyone else

Why do so many elders vote for conservatives? The answer is quite simple; (take note: I'm 85) Like most other human beings most of them are incredibly stupid.

If you want to know how Republicans get people to vote against their own economic interests, you need to read George Lakoff's "Don't think of an Elephant". There is no accident here, they've spent decades and billions of $$ in research to promote their political agenda. If you think "facts" should sway voters (esp. "facts" about their economic interests), then you've clearly missed the "fact" that "facts" don't sway voters, stories do. I have no affiliation with Lakoff or the book, so if you want to understand, read it.

I was bothered by several of the comments that said you have to be stupid to vote Republican. I think Joared was right in her list of reason. I am a registered republican because I believe that as a general rule small government is better and free enterprise is more efficient.

I am becoming less and less connected with today's Republican party. I adamantly support universal healyth care, abortion rights, gun control and gay rights, I can't believe that so many people believe we can cut. The deficit by cutting spending alone.

I just finished working for the tax season preparing tax returns. I was amazed how much anti democrat opinions I heard. My sense is that it is because people (especially elders) want to hold on to what they have earned an don't think the democrats will allow that.

One lady said something that several people agreed with.... "If you are not a liberal when you are young you don't have a heart and if you are not a conservative when you get older you dont have a brain"

Apparently I have neither because I was a VERY conservative college student and am becoming more and more liberal as I get older.

I just heard another incredible reason, I think, from a life long Repub. who now alleges we must fear a Communist takeover -- intimating that's the orientation of our current administration. Perhaps he heard Representative Rep. West who stated up to 81 House Democrats are communists. Shades of Joe McCarthy!

Many of the prior comments imply that the elderly are stupid and vote against their own self interest. Are elderly stupid? I doubt it. Maybe the elderly are voting, in a larger percentage, what is best for their country not themselves.

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