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The Power of 50+ Voters: Their Political Activities & Attitudes

What issues help them decide to vote for a certain candidate?

The Power of the 50+ Voter

Part 3: Their Political Activities & Attitudes

Don’t miss below —

Part 1: Who Are They?

Part 2: How Do They Vote?

Part 4: On the Issues

Political engagement can take many forms: voting, working or volunteering for a political candidate or campaign, or contacting an elected official, for example. While people younger than 50 are slightly more likely to say that they have volunteered for a campaign in the past two years, older people top the chart in other categories of political engagement — including perhaps the most important one of “always voting.”

Source: “Political Polarization in the American Public,” Detailed Tables (Table 5.1: Political Engagement), Pew Research Center, June 2014.

Another form of political engagement is giving money to candidates for public office and to groups working to elect them. Compared with younger adults, Americans 50 and older are more than twice as likely to have made political contributions, whether in their lifetimes or just in the past two years.

Source: “Political Polarizations in the American Public,” Detailed Tables (Table 5.2: Political Contributions), Pew Research Center, June 2014.

Most Americans, surveys show, don’t talk about politics all that frequently. Older people are the exceptions. Nearly half of all Americans 50 and older, for example, discuss government and politics at least a few times a week — and it’s even a daily habit for 1 in 6 of them.

Source: “Political Polarization in the American Public,” Detailed Tables (Table 3.9: Discuss Politics), Pew Research Center, June 2014.

Early this year, people 65 and older were twice as likely as those under 30 to be closely following campaign news (40 percent vs. 20 percent) — a much larger gap than in 2008 (when it was 39 percent vs. 31 percent). That may have lots to do, of course, with the fact that there’s no spirited Democratic primary contest this time around. Nonetheless, in both elections 50-plus voters have been the heaviest consumers of political news.


Source: “Cable Leads the Pack as Campaign News Source,” Pew Research Center, Feb. 7, 2012.

Older voters are more likely than younger voters to say that it’s difficult to find objective, reliable information about the records and positions of political candidates. More than half of all older voters (53 percent) say it’s hard to find some information, for example, while more than half of all younger voters (54 percent) say it’s easy.


Source: “What the Economy Means to 50+ Voters,” AARP, July 2012.

Cable television is the leader of the pack among older Americans as a source of news about the presidential election campaign (followed, in order, by local TV, the nightly network news, local daily newspapers and the Internet).


Source: “Cable Leads the Pack as Campaign News Source,” Pew Research Center, Feb. 7, 2012.

There’s still a wide chasm between young and old in terms of access to — and use of — the Internet. But once past that threshold, the difference begins to narrow in terms of online political activity, with a spread of only 7 percentage points separating 18- to 24-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds.


Source: “The Internet’s Role in Campaign 2008,” Pew Internet & American Life Project, April 2009 [based on 2008 Post-Election Survey].

“There is nothing new about Republicans disliking the Democratic Party or, conversely, Democrats not liking the GOP,” the Pew Research Center says. “But the level of antipathy that members of each party feel toward the opposing party has surged over the past two decades.” And older people are somewhat more likely than younger people to have unfavorable views of the parties.

Source: “Political Polarization in the American Public,” Detailed Tables (Table 2.1: Partisan Antipathy), Pew Research Center, June 2014.

Americans aren’t happy with Congress. The percentage of Americans who approve of the job Congress is doing is as low as it’s been since the Gallup poll began measuring congressional approval in 1974. Older Americans have a dimmer view of the job Congress is doing than the public at large, consistent with previous Gallup polls that show a long-term inverse relationship between congressional approval and age.


Source: Lydia Saad, “At 13%, Congress’ Approval Ties All-Time Low,” Gallup Poll: Politics, Oct. 12, 2011.

More Slideshows

Part 1: Who Are They?

Part 2: How Do They Vote?

Part 4: On the Issues


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