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August 08, 2013 5:29 PM Old Folks Turning Away From GOP For Real?

By Ed Kilgore

A couple of weeks ago, I tried to draw attention to a Charlie Cook column (based on Democracy Corps data) suggesting that a very big political development might be occurring right under our noses: a notable alienation of seniors from the GOP.

Now comes Erica Seifert of Democracy Corps with more detailed data, published over at The Democratic Strategist:

—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.)
—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.
—When the Republican congress took office in early 2011, 45 percent of seniors approved of their job performance. That number has dropped to just 22 percent — with 71 percent disapproving.
—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).
—More than half (55 percent) of seniors say the Republican Party is too extreme, half (52 percent) say it is out of touch, and half (52 percent) say the GOP is dividing the country. Just 10 percent of seniors believe that the Republican Party does not put special interests ahead of ordinary voters.
—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.

If the trend holds, this is a very big deal, folks, not just in the long term but in the immediate future. It’s the grip the GOP had on white seniors that made the 2010 GOP landslide possible, and which had convinced most attentive observers that Republicans possessed a big advantage going into 2014 no matter what was going on across the issue landscape, given the disproportionate turnout of seniors in midterms.

It’s now becoming impossible to simply dismiss the evidence that this grip is loosening. I’ll be interested to see if other public opinion researchers address it, and what they find.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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