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Power of the 50-Plus Voters: Who Are They?

Courting the prized senior voting bloc

The Power of the 50+ Voter

Part 1: Who Are They?

Don’t miss below —

Part 2: How Do They Vote?

Part 3: Their Political Activities & Attitudes

Part 4: On the Issues



Three of the five generations old enough to vote are 50+ (the only exception being the very youngest of the boomers). The others are Generation X, made up of those born from 1965 to 1980, and the Millennial Generation, made up of those born after 1980.

Source: Varied.

The U.S. population is becoming more diverse generation by generation, reflecting the nation’s changing racial and ethnic makeup. The progression of change can be seen across the five generations shown in this chart, including the three generations that include all 50+ Americans.

Source: “The Generation Gap and the 2012 Election,” Pew Research Center, 3 November 2011, page 13.

Households headed by older Americans controlled roughly two-thirds of the nation’s assets at the time of the last official count, and some experts believe their share of the national wealth has increased in the time since.

Source: Computations by Brad Edmonston from U.S. Census Bureau, Survey of Income and Program Participation, “Wealth and Asset Ownership: Mean Value of Assets for Households by Type of Asset Owned and Selected Characteristics: 2004 [Table 5].”

While statistics on political contributions by age are hard to come by, the few on-point studies available show that older Americans account for the largest share of contributions in presidential and congressional campaigns. In the 2000 presidential election, for example, 50-plus adults made more than two-thirds of all contributions of $200 or more.

Source:  Clyde Wilcox, Alexandra Cooper, Peter Francia, John Green, et al., “With Limits Raised, Who Will Give More? The Impact of BCRA [Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002] on Individual Donors.”

More Americans are working later in their lives than ever before, partly out of choice and partly out of economic necessity.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Projected Labor Force Data

Social Security was not intended to be the sole source of income for the nation’s retirees. But over the years it’s become a vital source of income for Americans 65 and older — so much so that it kept 36 percent of them (almost 14 million) out of poverty in 2009.

Social Security Administration, “Social Security Fact Sheet; AARP Public Policy Institute, “Social Security Is a Critical Income Source for Older Americans: State-Level Estimates, 2007–2009,” Fact Sheet 236, September 2011.

It’s all about life expectancy. On average, women in the United States live five years longer than men, though the gap in life expectancy has been narrowing. That’s why women make up an increasingly larger share of America’s 50-plus population as you move up the age scale.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, The 2012 Statistical Abstract

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Election 2012

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News for the 50+ voter

AARP's political bloggers keep tabs on the upcoming election and the hot issues for older Americans.