Obama's OTHER Forgotten Demographic : Older Voters

While the Obama campaign and its surrogate have been trumpeting the fact that it is bringing "new voters", it seems to have forgotten a key component of the "old Democratic coalition" that it disparages.

"Old" voters.  Literally.

The Clinton campaign consistently includes Hillary Clinton's appeal to seniors when it discusses why she is the better choice to face off against John McCain - but the media seldom mentions older voters, choosing instead to concentrate on Clinton's appeal to "white working class" voters to hype the race angle in the campaign.

The Obama campaign's use of talking points involving "new voters" and a "new coalition" is sending a message to older voters - that "old" is worth a lot less to them than "new", that young voters are more important than older voters, and that the "new coalition" means that the concerns of the "old coalition" members are no longer critical to the Party.

And all this is going on when the Republican Party will have a 71 year old as its nominee


Charts One and Two show just how appallingly bad Obama's numbers are among voters 60 years old and older.  In the twelve states that have chosen their delegates since Super Tuesday for which exit polling is available, Obama has not only lost the "older" vote to Clinton by an average of  13 points (Clinton 55%, Obama 42%), his support among older voter is 11 points below his overall support.  (Obama support among all voters - 53%, Obama support among older voters--42%).

Data for Obama's Forgotten Demographic--Older voters Chart 1

    % of

    voters 60

      & older  HRC     BHO

IN    25%    65%    35%

NC    30%    53%    44%

PA    32%    62%    38%

OH    23%    69%    28%

MS    29%    52%    47%

RI    33%    67%    33%

TX    22%    62%    35%

WI    29%    54%    45%

VT    26%    41%    58%

MD    23%    48%    47%

VA    25%    44%    56%

LA    33%    48%    41%

AVG    28%    55%    42%

    ·    Older voters make up an average of 28% of the primary electorate in these states. In only two of 12 states were older voters less than one quarter of the electorate.

    ·    Clinton carries the older vote in 10 of 12 states

    ·    In the five states where Clinton won the popular vote her margins among older voters by at least 30% (Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island).  

    ·    In 5 of the states that Obama carried by double digit margins overall, he lost the "60 plus" vote (Maryland, North Carolina, Mississippi, Wisconsin, and Louisiana.)

Data for Obama's Forgotten Demographic--Older voters Chart 2



        60 and   All

        older    voters

IN    35%    49%

LA    41%    57%

MD    47%    60%

MS    47%    61%

NC    44%    56%

OH    28%    44%

PA    38%    45%

RI    33%    40%

TX    35%    47%

VA    56%    64%

VT    58%    59%

WI    45%    58%

AVG    42%    53%


Is easy to understand why Barack Obama does so poorly among older voters: The rhetoric employed by Obama, his surrogates, and his supporters not merely fails to appeal to older voters, it seems to be designed to alienate older voters.

·    The constant iteration of how important Obama's appeal to "new" voters does more than simply sell an overt signal to older voters that they are not crucial to the Obama campaign, the constant use of the word "new" would have a subliminal negative impact because it is the opposite of "old"

·    The constant iteration of how Obama is going to win with a "new coalition" sends the overt signal to older voters that their concerns will be given a lower priority because the concerns of the "new" coalition members must be addressed.

·    The constant iteration of the "change" theme by a candidate with a virtually non-existent resume is not appealing to older voters.  They've lived through decades of "change", some of it good, some of it bad, and unlike younger voters don't consider "change" itself a virtue absent a clear and unambiguous agenda.

·    Obama's overt and tacit disparagement of the concerns of white working class voters will not merely alienate "white working class seniors".  Many of the "middle" and "upper middle" class white seniors didn't start out as "middle class", but were born into working class families themselves.

·    Obama's willingness to adopt Right Wing framing on the issue of Social Security - that there is a "Social Security crisis" that he plans to address, is counter-productive to appealing to older voters.  This is especially true given Obama "change" message, his emphasis on "new" (younger) voters and his "new coalition", and his denigration of the concerns of"white working class" voters.  

Obama may make promises to older voters, but he provides ample reason to believe that when it comes time to make the hard choices, the concerns of older voters will be low on his list of priorities.  

And while the primary results show that Obama clearly benefits from "identity politics", when it comes to older voters there is little question that in the general election "identity politics" is going to work against Obama among older voters.   The GOP is running an "older" candidate with whom older voters can readily identify.  

And the unfortunate fact is that every single voter who is at least 60 years old what at least 16 years old when the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964 means that older white voters grew up in an environment where racial prejudice and stereotyping were a given,  As a result, promises made by an African American nominee with a sparse resume employing the rhetoric of "change" and the crucial importance of the "new" are likely to be treated with a great deal of skepticism by this key demographic that has consistently supported Democratic Presidential candidates.


While the enthusiasm of Super-delegates for "new voters" is understandable, ignoring the preferences of constituencies that were key to the victory of the only Democrat to win two Presidential elections since Franklin Delano Roosevelt could well result in a disaster for the Democratic Party in 2008.   Barack Obama has promised to bring "change" through "unify".  But not only has Obama failed to demonstrate that he can achieve meaning for change with or without unity, while talking about "unity" he divided the Democratic Party, and while talking about "change" has relied upon traditional "identity politics" to remain competitive in the race for the nomination.  

Barack Obama has promised a "new coalition", but to date it is merely an empty promise.  There is simply no evidence that he can create a successful "new coalition" in crucial swing states, and in most traditionally Democratic states.  Nor is there any evidence that his success during the primary season in heavily Republican states can provide the Electoral College votes to replace those he puts at serious risk in states that Democrats have traditionally relied upon.

The Democratic Party relies on the judgment of Superdelegates when there is no clear choice among Democrats for the Party nomination.  That judgment, and the necessity of providing Democratic office-holders, members of the Democratic National Committee, and other "Party leaders" with an automatic voice in the nomination process is being tested.  What isn't at stake is access to Barack Obama's donor list and "grassroots organization", but the future of the nation and the world.  

The choice faced by Super-Delegates is simple - do you go with a "sure thing", even if it means alienating "new voters" and not forming a so-far imaginary "new coalition", or do you roll the dice on an untested and unproven nominee?


Data for charts and tables is from CNN election results and exit poll pages, which can be found at here.

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    I guess beng 61 makes me an older voter... (5.00 / 3) (#1)
    by suzieg on Sat May 10, 2008 at 08:13:38 AM EST
    The comments from Donna Brazile on CNN that Obama represents a young "new democratic party" and that Obama can win without white men and hispanics made me so angry that I phoned the democratic party and reminded them that it was us, the seniors who vote "en masse" and that being from a hispanic background and married to a white guy, we felt insulted and if Obama's doesn't think he needs us then we would vote for whomever is grateful for our votes. He's so arrogant- he'll pay the price at the polls - he should not forget that hell has no fury like seniors, white guys and women especially hispanic women scorned!

    Why diss Obama for what Donna Brazile said? (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by Newt on Fri May 16, 2008 at 02:25:19 AM EST
    "The comments from Donna Brazile on CNN that Obama represents a young 'new democratic party' and that Obama can win without white men and hispanics ... He's so arrogant- he'll pay the price at the polls..."

    Obama has REENGAGED plenty of old voters who gave up on politics years ago.  Some of them are older black citizens who are giving money to a presidential candidate for the first time in their life; others are white folks who have lived through so many Republican coups from Reagan to the Bush dynasty that they've given up on ever really having any control over our government. Now they're back in the fray, thrilled at the chance to be a part of making our country something they can be proud to leave to their kids.  The Obama call for change is exemplified by the reengagement of those citizens.  I'm in my fifties. I've spent most of my life thinking about how to make our country better.  Obama is the first presidential candidate I've ever believed will actually afford us the opportunity to have a real say over our government. Even if he's a complete liar and the Yes We Can movement is a hoax, I'll still be satisfied if the new and reengaged electorate helps us fire bunch of Republican Senators and replace them with progressive Democrats.  Imagine a world with a veto proof progressive U.S. Congress, and a Democrat president to top it off.  Wow. If all those new, young voters make it to the polls next fall and vote Democrat, Democrat, Democrat, right down the ballot, that works for me.  Compare that to the GOP's conservative base that is so easily manipulated with anti-Hillary rhetoric.  They don't just dislike her, the despise her with a passion.  She's the GOP's GOTV strategy, and when her candidacy brings them out, they'll do the opposite - vote Repub all the way down their ballots.  I'd rather middle American voters decide if they can't vote for a black man, and McSame doesn't inspire them, then they'll just sit out the vote this time around.  

    And for what it's worth, I've never heard Obama say anything negative about Hispanics.  Why would he?  He's experienced racist oppression just like American Hispanics have.  I imagine he feels as much compassion for other forms of racism as he does for AAs.  He even seems to understand the issues whites have with what the right would call reverse discrimination.  If Donna Brazile is a jerk, tell her so.  But she doesn't represent Obama or his campaign


    I used to make an effort to.... (none / 0) (#9)
    by Maria Garcia on Fri May 16, 2008 at 07:04:45 AM EST
    ...separate what Obama said from what his supporters said. But after getting battered over the head for being part of the demographic that doesn't support Obama in large numbers----Latina, female, and as Paul pointed out not currently working class but 1st generation college graduate---I can't do that anymore. These people are his base. They feel he shares their views, why should I conclude otherwise?

    The few thousand overzealous Obamabots (none / 0) (#10)
    by Newt on Wed May 21, 2008 at 12:28:16 PM EST
    The few thousand overzealous Obamabots
    who spend their time writing obnoxious comments do not represent the full spectrum of Obama's supporters.

    Who's the enemy here?  Stupid college kids posting on blogs?  Or a Republican who will appoint judges to roll back civil rights and civil liberties that we've worked for decades to get?  

    Ignore the Obamabots' displays of immaturity.  They have no political savvyness and even less sense of decorum.  So what?  We're all Democrats, we all want to make our country and the world a better place.  It's hard to deal with baby Democrat Obamabots but they'll grow up eventually.  

    Most of the Obama supporters are NOT on these lists, they're quietly waiting to vote next fall.  Which is what all of us need to start getting ready to do, regardless how this all turns out.  This close race has inspired millions of new Democrats and reengaged others who gave up on the system long ago.  When those voters go to the polls next fall, they'll check Democrat everywhere on their ballots.  That's what we need to keep in mind as we move forward, whichever candidate wins the nomination  Let's keep our eyes on the prize - a Democrat president and a huge cleanup in Congress.

    No Republicans Left Behind in '08!


    I probably... (none / 0) (#2)
    by p lukasiak on Sat May 10, 2008 at 08:23:06 PM EST
    I probably should have gone with 65, but I started using data from the NY Times exit polls, and most of their age demographics was broken down as 60+ as the oldest category.

    But the times doesn't carried demographic data for only 7 of the 12 post ST states, so I went to CNN and I filled in the data for the missing states, grabbing their  60+ numbers rather than their 65+ numbers.  And since I now had 10 states with 60+ data, and two states with Times data for 65+, I decided to get the 60+ numbers for CNN from those states.

    At which point I realized that the Times data was actually a lot more 'raw' than the CNN data, so I went back and replaced all Times data I still had with the CNN data for the 60+ cohort.

    Obama actually does worse among the 65+ cohort than he does with the 60+ cohort, btw.  

    But since two of the Times states was 65+


    Paul (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by waldenpond on Tue May 13, 2008 at 05:41:30 PM EST
    Sorry... I didn't realize others had started writing diaries.... I usually read your stuff over at Corrente.   I have a few numbers, but I was wondering if you had looked at what has happened with the whole vote over 40.  Seems there are some pretty strong statistics there.  Has that demo changed over time?

    Have you laid these demographics over the states he is most vulnerable in?  For instance, which states were the points the closest while having large demographic weaknesses?  Should it be set next to the primary vote this year or up against prior general election votes?

    walden.... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by p lukasiak on Wed May 14, 2008 at 04:22:49 PM EST
    I haven't looked at the 'over 40' vote, or done any serious examination of Obama's 'vulnerable' states.  

    IMHO, its his problem attracting support from older voters (plus other demographics) that make him vulnerable -- so there a "chicken and egg" quality to the question.  


    Older Voters and Social Security (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by Christy1947 on Tue May 13, 2008 at 06:41:33 PM EST
    I would be appreciative, having seen the last debate, if someone would explain Sen. Clinton's plan to fix the upcoming funding problem with Social Security. As I understand the matter, Sen. Obama's proposal involves lifting the 'cap' on Payroll taxes. As I understand it, Sen. Clinton plans to drop payroll taxes for working class people, which seems to mean another revenue source to fund the Social Security and Medicare trust funds will have to be found. Please, what is her plan?

    no upcoming funding problem.. (5.00 / 5) (#6)
    by p lukasiak on Wed May 14, 2008 at 03:21:12 PM EST
    there is no upcoming funding problem for social security.  

    The trust fund continues to run a surplus until at least 2029 -- and the estimates of the trust fund eventually running out of assets are based on estimates of annual economic growth that are well below historic norms.  

    Obama's economic advisors have him pushing the phony right wing "social security crisis" theme because they are advocates of privatization -- basically, corporate shills who recognize that all the 401Ks and assorted other automatic stock market investment retirement plans are pyramid schemes -- that well before social security even looks like it might have a problem, the money being taken out of the stock market by retirees will be less than that being put in through new worker investment in their 401ks.  

    So these wall street types want Social Security money to prevent the inevitable deflation (and possible collapse) of stock market prices that will occur as more people retire.

    The real problem is with Medicare, which nobody is talking about.  


    Obama (none / 0) (#3)
    by deechannel on Tue May 13, 2008 at 04:05:59 AM EST
    Please know...that all of us out here...are not buying the "Obama Kool Aid."  He is crouched within a giant Trojan Horse that the looney left of the Demo Party is slowly and quietly wheeling toward the gates of the White House.  We are all not taken in by this Changeling's slick rhetoric, his constant explanations (is it 4 or 5 different ones now on Rev. Wright, his 60's terrorists buddies and his close association with Tony Rezko?) nor did we miss his snobbish snipping at the middle class who cling to their guns and God when all else fails them. Nor did we miss his wife's dismay at "mean America" his aversion to the flag or his off-guard remarks about his "typical white woman" grandmother.  Any journalist that gives this "ticking time bomb" a pass to the White House should be held accountable (at some future date) for this nation's total demise.