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.
Gallup reports that “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. The full 1992-2013 party affiliation trends for seniors and younger Americans are shown on page 2.
“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.
“Gallup’s analysis reveals that the changes in seniors’ party preferences are attributable in part to attitudinal change among today’s seniors as they have aged. This is evident in survey results from 1993 and 2003 that show the party preferences of today’s seniors when they were 10 or 20 years younger.
“In 1993, Americans then aged 45 to 79 represented the age group that today is 65 to 99. At that time, 20 years ago, those 45 to 79 were highly Democratic, with a 12-point advantage in favor of the Democrats. That gap was larger than the average seven-point Democratic advantage among younger age groups that year. Ten years later, all age cohorts had become more Republican and were fairly balanced politically. Today’s seniors, who were aged 55 to 89 in 2003, were the only age cohort to tilt Democratic at that time. The 2013 results show that today’s seniors have continued to move in a Republican direction, while the younger age cohorts have gone back in a Democratic direction.”