Are Seniors Going Republican? Here’s What’s Really Going On

Dave Johnson

A new Gallup poll shows seniors moving from the Democratic to the Republican party. Why has this happened?

The poll, headlined “U.S. Seniors Have Realigned With the Republican Party,” says:

U.S seniors – those aged 65 and older – have moved from a reliably Democratic group to a reliably Republican one over the past two decades. From 1992 through 2006, seniors had been solidly Democratic and significantly more Democratic than younger Americans. Over the last seven years, seniors have become less Democratic, and have shown an outright preference for the Republican Party since 2010.

In 1992, 53% of senior citizens, on average, identified as Democrats or said they were independents but leaned Democratic, while 39% identified as Republicans or leaned Republican, resulting in a 14-percentage-point Democratic advantage in seniors’ party affiliation. Last year, 48% of seniors identified as or leaned Republican, and 45% Democratic, a three-point Republican advantage.

Gallup attributes this shift strongly to racial factors, saying that whites in general have shifted to strongly Republicans and non-white seniors remain strongly Democratic.

There may be another factor at work here. Republicans have run two election campaigns now – 2010 and 2012 – falsely claiming that “Democrats have cut Medicare” as a central theme. This was repeated in corporate/billionaire-funded TV ad after corporate/billionaire-funded TV ad, adding up now to hundreds of millions of dollars of exposure of that message. That kind of money buys a lasting impression.

Candidates and officials have to do better at refuting these false claims. But, more importantly, this is more proof that a campaign based on themes touted by so-called “centrist” groups such as Third Way and the Peter G. Peterson empire – that seniors hear as calls for them to sacrifice what little they have while nothing is asked of the wealthy and corporations – just won’t fly. Seniors will side with candidates who are fighting for their economic future and that of their children – and that means fighting for stronger Medicare and Social Security benefits, and an economy that works for working people.

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