Seniors and their Influence on Elections

Abraham Lincoln once said: “Elections belong to the people.  It’s their decision.  If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.”  Seniors hear this call to action and play a critical role in elections.  They vote more consistently than any other age group and their collective voting patterns are powerful.

A U.S. News Money Report examining the 2010 election found that 61% of citizens age 65 and older voted in the November 2010 election; while this participation rate may disappoint some, it was the best attendance of any age group.  Approximately 54% of citizens age 55 to 64 voted.  Attendance by people age 45 or less was considerably less impressive.  Just 37% of citizens age 25 to 44 voted in November 2010.  Falling well behind the rest at 21% were young adult citizens age 18 to 24.  In 2012, a Presidential Election year, seniors voted in even greater numbers.  That year  70% of older adults voted.

Seniors vote somewhat collectively on a variety of topics and find some issues more important than others.  An October 2012 Kaiser Public Opinion poll indicated seniors 65 and older ranked their top ten political topics as follows in order of importance:  (1) the economy; (2) Medicare; (3) Federal budget deficit; (4) Taxes; (5) Spending on the military; (6) ACA; (7) International affairs; (8) Medicaid; (9) Social issues; and (10) Immigration.  As you can imagine, this list varies considerably when those polled identified themselves as Democrats or Republicans.

Regardless of political party affiliation, paramount among senior voters are Social Security and Medicare.  According to a report published by the  AARP Public Policy Institute entitled, Why Social Security and Medicare Are Vital to Older Americans in Missouri, in 2012, 92% of older Missouri residents received Social Security with the average benefit amounting to $14,800.  For those receiving Social Security in Missouri, their benefits comprise on average 55% of their family income.  For those who are low and middle-income adults receiving benefits in Missouri, 80% of their income comes from Social Security.  Without Social Security benefits, 324,520 Missourians, comprising 40% of seniors, would have fallen below the poverty line in 2012.

Senior voting patterns are similar with regard to protecting Medicare. Nearly 98% of Missouri seniors enrolled in Medicare in 2011.  Without this benefit, the cost of health care would be out of reach for many older Missourians.  The average Missouri Medicare beneficiary spent $4,315 on out-of-pocket health care costs in 2012.  This expenditure reflected 14% of the annual income for Missouri Medicate recipients.   Medicare programs spent $7.6 billion in 2012 affecting 851,081 Missouri seniors.

Senior voting trends don’t always align with one party over the other.  Gone are the days when Republicans were the party of crusty old folks while Democrats were the party of the youth.  Often, the presidential effect on our society and the success of economic plans, determines how seniors cast votes.  For example, if you were alive during the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration of public programs and aid, you are more Democratic than the nation as a whole.  However, if you were influenced by Ronald Reagan’s economy or George Bush’s response to 9/11, you align more often with Republicans.  At least one recent report seems to indicate the senior vote may swing toward Republicans in 2016.  Bring the Vote Home, a nationwide initiative that surveys seniors on a wide range of issues, recently released a poll that indicates 79% of seniors feel the country is on the wrong track while 61% disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing as president.

Senior votes are important and occur more often than any other age group.  While the economy, Social Security and Medicare top the list of important election topics for seniors, their decision to vote and the manner in which they vote are sometimes influenced by the economy and presidential decision-making.  Regardless of your political affiliation, your vote is your voice as an American citizen and many great men and women died to protect that privilege. Still others left their friends and family members for months or years on end, to serve the cause of freedom.  Among them were my great grandfather, both of my grandfathers, two uncles, and two cousins.  A vote is your opportunity to be heard, to hold elected officials accountable, and to have a say in important issues that affect our community.  On Election Day, every vote matters.

Todd Miller is the Senior Partner with the Law Office of Todd Miller, LLC in Jefferson City, Missouri www.toddmillerlaw.com (573) 634-2838.  Mr. Miller earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Missouri School of Law in 1999.  He is recognized as a Superb Attorney with a “10” rating by AVVO and annually receives the Client Distinction Award by Lawyers.com. He was recognized as Golf Tax Consultant of the Year by Boardroom Magazine three times and candidate for the “10 Best” attorneys for the State of Missouri by the American Institute of Family Law Attorneys and “10 Best” attorneys for the State of Missouri by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.  He writes and lectures on various legal topics and you may find him on Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and Twitter.