Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Democrats' Senior Problem

I talked pretty extensively with the Washington Times for a story they put out yesterday on how senior citizens are reacting to the health care battle and the overall impact that's having on the political landscape.

There are two issues for Democrats here, the biggest being that they're doing poorly with voters over 65 and the corollary being that those older voters make up a larger portion of the electorate in a midterm year than they do in a Presidential one.

We've polled in seven different states since mid-July and Barack Obama's approval rating with senior citizens is poor in all of them, ranging from a low of 37% to a high of 42%:


Obama Approval w/Seniors



North Carolina




New Jersey








In a development that's probably related we find Democrats doing poorly with older voters in most of the 2010 races we've polled recently:

-In North Carolina Richard Burr leads the generic ballot overall by 7 points, while among seniors his margin is 14. Against six potential opponents he leads by 7-16 points with all voters, but by 10-22 with seniors.

-In Arkansas Blanche Lincoln trails Gilbert Baker and Curtis Coleman by 2 points and 1 respectively but with seniors those leads are 9 and 7 points for the Republicans.

-In Colorado Michael Bennet trailed Bob Beauprez by 3, led Ken Buck by 4, and had a 5 point advantage over Ryan Frazier. Among seniors he was down 10 points to Beauprez, 3 to Buck, and tied with Frazier. On the gubernatorial front Bill Ritter was down by 9 to Scott McInnis and tied with Josh Penry among all voters. With seniors it was a 17 point deficit to McInnis and a 6 point disadvantage against Penry.

-In Louisiana David Vitter led Charlie Melancon by 12 points overall and by 26 with voters over 65.

-On the generic Congressional ballot we found the GOP up 45-41 with all voters, buoyed largely by a 55-34 lead with senior citizens.

One thing to keep in mind with all of this is that seniors aren't a particularly good demographic for Democrats to begin with. Last year John McCain won them 53-45 nationally while losing by a pretty similar spread overall. But what makes it a bigger problem looking toward 2010 is that voters over 65 tend to make up a larger share of the electorate in midterms than they do in Presidential years, largely because they're more inclined to vote in all elections while younger voters and particularly those under 30 are more prone to only vote in the highest turnout ones. So they're a more powerful bloc next year than they were last year.

Seniors and independents are probably the two main groups Democrats are going to need to win over to hold their position next year. African Americans and young voters will be important too but that's more an issue of persuading them to turn out than persuading them to the party.


Anonymous said...

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is healthcare. Don't forget that there will be starting to get less FDR seniors and more seniors who remeber Reagan.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jensen,
In one of your latest tweets you state that "2010 D candidates doing poorly with seniors is an issue because they make up larger % of voters in midterm:" The Wall Street Journal says that seniors are going to be at least 29% of the electorate in 2010 and that % will be higher in NC due to our large senior population. Since the Wall Street Journal is a paper you hold in high regard b/c you have their chart of polling companies on your homepage page. Why do you continue to poll seniors at such a low % on your NC polls. Thank you for your time.

Tom Jensen said...

Can you please provide the link to that?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but I dont have the link. I just remember seeing it in the WSJ a few weeks back. I believe it was in a Karl Rove op-ed piece. Granted whatever our opinions are of Mr. Rove I think we can agree that he is pretty good with #'s. However, the turnout of seniors in off year elections in NC has traditionally been anywhere from 32-40% (give or take a few points). Thank you for your time.

Anonymous said...

I noticed you don't include Florida on your list. Well, let me tell ya..I live right in the middle of retirement central, FL! I've been to the Palin and Beck rallies at the Villages (although I don't live there, I'm too young ;-) and I help out a few elderly in my neighborhood and 99% of my neighbors (and their friends) are big time yankee democrats and all of them voted for Obama and all of them wish they hadn't.

Check your polls, you'll see Obama is not doing well with the 45 and ups either. 45 up through elderly are the most dependable and faithful voters. The young democrats (18-mid 20's) usually don't vote unless they have a horse in the race.

Even the "Tea Party" has a higher approval rating then the democrat party! Higher then Republican party too but that's no surprise.

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