The Democratic Party in 2014 is having a bad seniors moment. Once upon a time, seniors were big supporters of the Dems. But started to shift and this year the Democrats could get a sharp senior blow to their political stomach. Seniors are not happy and now could be counted on to be GOP voters:
Democrats are facing a senior problem that could get even worse this year.
The party has traditionally had trouble with older voters, losing them by 16 points in 2010 — when Republicans picked up 63 seats — and 12 points in the 2012 presidential race.
Seniors are the GOP’s most reliable voting bloc in midterm years, turning out in higher numbers than Democratic base voters. And a recent Gallup poll showed seniors have become even more Republican over the last two decades, and in 2013 48 percent considered themselves Republican.
Why is this a big problem for the Democrats? The Democrats are popular among young voters, but that group is an Achilles heel during mid-term elections when many young voters don’t bother to vote. In any given mid-term election seniors could be counted on turning out to vote — for the GOP.
That [the Gallup Poll] spells trouble for Democrats, who are already facing a difficult midterm climate. Doug Thornell, a former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said it’s imperative to close the gap they faced in the last midterm cycle.
“Democrats have to perform better with seniors than they did in 2010. They got shellacked with seniors in 2010. I don’t think the goal here is to win, but I definitely think the goal is to narrow the gap,” he said.
After a rough few months with the rocky rollout of ObamaCare, Democrats are more optimistic because of better-than-expected health care enrollment numbers out this week, but Republicans are pledging to continue to hammer Democrats on the law.
Of particular concern to seniors are the proposed 2015 cuts to Medicare Advantage, a popular private Medicare program, which may be finalized Monday when the administration announces its final decision.
And the cuts could hurt most in retiree-heavy states where Democrats face some of their toughest House races, like Florida and Arizona, as well as New York, Colorado, Minnesota and California — all states with higher than average enrollment in Medicare Advantage, according to the Kaiser Family foundation (credit anna). Democrats lost a critical Florida special election last month where seniors were key in the GOP’s victory
To try to mitigate potential fallout, a number of vulnerable Democrats have joined Republicans in calling on the administration to keep Medicare Advantage rates flat to avoid cutting benefits for seniors, including Rep. John Barrow (Ga.) and Sens. Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mary Landrieu (La.), three of Republicans’ top targets.
Gallup flatly says that seniors have now “realigned with the Republican Party”:
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…
By comparison, younger Americans, those aged 18 to 64, shifted from +1 point Democratic in 1992 to +8 Democratic in 2013, and tended to show greater Democratic advantages from 2006 to 2013 than prior to that. The changes in younger Americans’ party affiliation generally follow those among the broader U.S. adult population between 1992 and 2013.
Senior citizens’ changing political preferences are also apparent in their recent presidential vote preferences, according to Gallup’s final pre-election polls.
Senior voters favored the Democratic candidate in each election from 1992 through 2004, including a 17-point margin for Bill Clinton in 1992, the highest among age groups. In each of the last two elections, by contrast, seniors were the only age group to support the Republican candidate over Barack Obama.
What’s going on? According to Gallup, over the past six years the seniors — including the once liberal Baby Boomers — have moved to the right.
And younger voters have moved to the left.
And guess who will be more likely to vote in the mid-terms?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.