Political Participation of the Aging Population

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  • 0:02 Election Day
  • 0:29 Voter Turnout
  • 1:33 Political Views
  • 3:36 Alienation
  • 4:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies, the study of American history/society/culture. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer.

In this lesson, we will examine the voting habits and viewpoints of older adults. You will learn which political party older adults support most frequently and why their views tend to lean in particular ways.

Election Day

Sixty-eight-year-old Rachel is about to cast her vote in an election. Her 34-year-old daughter, Emma, also plans to vote, though she has a different candidate in mind. In this lesson, we will look at the most common political views of older adults, like Rachel, compared with younger adults, like Emma. We will cover who is more likely to vote and why, and what causes some older adults to feel angry with politics altogether.

Voter Turnout

Older adults are much more likely to vote than younger generations. There are theories about why this is the case. One of the most likely reasons why an older adult, like Rachel, may vote is that she is much more likely to be registered. Since Rachel has lived in her home for 25 years, she has been registered a long time. Emma, who has moved several times in the past ten years, may have a harder time registering in each new place or remembering where to go to vote.

Another explanation is that an older adult, like Rachel, has had more opportunity to establish a habit of voting. Her life is likely more stable than Emma's and includes ongoing routines. She also may have more time available than Emma, who has to squeeze in voting before or after work, perhaps while also caring for children. Still, others argue that Rachel is more likely to see voting as a civic duty compared with younger generations.

Political Views

While it is possible for Rachel and Emma to have the same political views, if they each represent the average citizen based on their age, they will have many differing views. Rachel is likely to be more conservative than her daughter Emma. She is more Republican in her views, compared with Emma who has a greater probability of being a Democrat.

When looking at the population as a whole, the demographic factor that influences their difference in views the most is ethnicity. Even if both Rachel and Emma identify as non-Hispanic, white Americans, Emma is much more likely to see diversity as a positive aspect of society, compared with her mother. Since Rachel's age group is primarily white, she may hold more negative views about the growing diversity of American society. She is also more likely to hold the social views of an earlier time, such as discomfort with interracial marriage or same-sex marriage. She may also feel that immigration is more negative for the country. Emma, on the other hand, might see immigration as contributing to the evolution of society.

Rachel will be more likely to favor smaller government compared to Emma and less likely to want increased funding for education or social welfare programs. However, she may vote more in line with Democrats on the issues of Social Security and Medicare. Her livelihood and that of those in her age group will be affected by how these benefits are funded and supported, so she is likely to defend them.

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