During this election cycle political commentators have spent much time analyzing different voting groups.
With all of this political discussion, however, there has been one important group that has been mostly overlooked. And it is this group that may ultimately decide which party is victorious in today’s elections all over the country.
The group I’m referring to, of course, is senior citizens. For decades they have not only been the most reliable voters, but also the most reliable REPUBLICAN voters.
GOP candidates could always depend on senior voters to turn out in high numbers and vote Republican.
Seniors have voted more for Republicans than Democrats for decades, but the election of 2018 may change all that. If the majority of senior voters support Democratic candidates this year it will be due to one single issue: healthcare.
The issue of healthcare is far and away the top issue for senior citizens this year. It is dominating all discussions with these voters, and it is clearly giving Democrats an edge.
In what is really bad news, senior voters now favor Democrats even on issues not directly related to Medicare, which is their #1 concern.
Democrats have a more than 20 point advantage on these issues also:
- Medicaid expansion,
- Access to reproductive care, and
- Protecting people with pre-existing conditions.
Democrats also have double digit advantages on:
- Protecting the health of minority populations and
- Maintaining the Affordable Care Act.
They have single digit leads on:
- Strengthening rural health care and
- Fighting the opioid epidemic.
What it means is that to the extent senior citizens make voting decisions based on healthcare-related issues, the Democratic candidates will have a huge advantage.
Of course seniors do look at issues besides healthcare before deciding who to vote for. But most analysts believe the healthcare issues will give Democrats a huge boost in today’s elections.
In more good news for Democrats, The Wall Street Journal has reported that retirees have been giving Democrats a significant fundraising advantage for this year’s elections. According to The Journal:
“Donors who identify their occupation as “retired” gave 52% of the $326 million they contributed through Oct. 17 to Democrats, compared with 48% to Republicans, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.That’s a direct reversal from the 2014 midterm election cycle.”
This may seem like a small change, but it adds up to a $25 million fundraising swing in favor of Democrats among senior voters who had always been reliably Republican. And this is the type of change that could be decisive in close elections because seniors vote at higher rates than any other demographic group.
Nationwide in the 2014 midterms just 37 percent of eligible voters actually voted. But in the “65 and older” group the turnout rate in 2014 was 55 percent. This one fact alone shows why many Republican candidates are very worried about today’s outcomes. And why top Republican leaders fear that these changes could persist for many years into the future.
Since they’ve had total control of Washington, Republicans have not endeared themselves to older voters. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan have both blamed the federal deficit problems on what they call “entitlements.” And what really angers seniors is when they label Social Security and Medicare as entitlements. Tens of millions of Americans have been paying huge payroll taxes for decades to fund these benefit plans, which Republicans now threaten to cut back and even take away.
It is no surprise that the majority of senior voters do not have a favorable view of Republicans right now. What may be a surprise is how they vote today, and how many GOP office holders are kicked out of office for failing to look out for their older constituents.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.