Seniors Aren’t Very Happy With the Republican Party These Days

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Erica Seifert writes that polling evidence suggests that seniors are turning against the Republican Party in big numbers. Here are three of her bits of evidence:

  • In 2010, seniors voted for Republicans by a 21 point margin (38 percent to 59 percent). Among seniors likely to vote in 2014, the Republican candidate leads by just 5 points (41 percent to 46 percent.)
  • Seniors are now much less likely to identify with the Republican Party. On Election Day in 2010, the Republican Party enjoyed a net 10 point party identification advantage among seniors (29 percent identified as Democrats, 39 percent as Republicans). As of last month, Democrats now had a net 6 point advantage in party identification among seniors (39 percent to 33 percent).
  • On almost every issue we tested — including gay rights, aid to the poor, immigration, and gun control — more than half of seniors believe that the Republican Party is too extreme.

I’m not sure how seriously to take this. Comparing attitudes on Election Day in 2010 to attitudes today, 15 months before an election, strikes me as a stretch. And the fact that you think the GOP is too extreme on an issue or three doesn’t mean you’re going to vote against them. On the other hand, there’s also this:

  • When Republicans took control of the House of Representatives at the beginning of 2011, 43 percent of seniors gave the Republican Party a favorable rating. Last month, just 28 percent of seniors rated the GOP favorably. This is not an equal-opportunity rejection of parties or government — over the same period, the Democratic Party’s favorable rating among seniors has increased 3 points, from 37 percent favorable to 40 percent favorable.

I dunno. I’d want to know why the party’s approval ratings have dropped. If it’s because tea-partyish seniors think the GOP leadership isn’t conservative enough, that certainly doesn’t suggest much of a pickup opportunity for Democrats. So color me unconvinced for now. At the same time, this does suggest that there’s at least an opportunity here for Democrats. If they can goad Eric Cantor and his pals into spending the next year jabbering about cuts to entitlements—i.e., Medicare and Social Security, which 89 percent of seniors want protected—then who knows? Maybe seniors really will bolt.

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