The Power of the 50+ Voter

The Power of the 50+ Voter

“The polls got it wrong.” We hear this a lot when election outcomes don’t match pre-vote predictions.  But what about the exit polls – the Election Day surveys that pollsters and pundits use to tell us what really happened? Turns out, there is a lot those tallies miss – particularly when it comes to older voters.

AARP commissioned an analysis by Echelon Insights of how many people in different age groups actually voted last November using what campaign pros call the ‘voter file’ – state by state data on registered voters and their voting activity. This research revealed some really interesting things.

First, the 2016 exits polls significantly underestimated turnout of older voters. Looking at counts of actual voters in 42 states (the remaining 8 and the District of Columbia do not keep track of voters’ ages), more than half of the 2016 electorate – 55% — was age 50 and up. This is a full nine percentage points higher than the 46% shown in the national exit polls.  In fact, 50+ voters topped 50% in every one of the states where voter file data is available.

Second, voters age 65 and older are the most consistently undercounted. According to national exit polls, this segment of the older voter population was 16% of the 2016 electorate, when the true share is closer to 25%.  And, all of the 25 statewide exit polls conducted in 2016, underreported voters age 65 and older, some by more than 10 percentage points.

Why is this important? The role of older Americans in deciding elections should not be understated.  Americans age 50 and up were not only the largest single voting bloc by age in the last election – they were the majority of voters. This is a trend that we’ve seen over the last few election cycles and one that will continue in 2018.

In fact, older voters will be even more important in 2018 than they were in 2016. Historically, older voters make up an even higher share of the electorate in midterm elections, when participation of younger voters – who are more likely to vote in Presidential years — drops.  In 2014, almost 60% of the 65+ and close to half of 45-64 year olds reported voting – compared to a little over a third of 35-44 year olds and less than one-quarter of 18-34 year olds.

This statistical reality means that in most races, across both red and blue states, older voters pick the winner. They are perhaps the most important swing voters in the country.  In 2016, the 50+ voted for the winning candidate in 17 out of 19 Senate races where we have exit poll data by age. (In Nevada and New Hampshire, the 65+ voted for the winner, while the 50-64 voted for the other candidate.) There was a similar story in 2014. Looking at 23 Senate races, all but one of the winning candidates carried 50+ voters.

With 2018 on the horizon, candidates of both parties need to think about – and talk to – older voters in their states and districts. They are the nation’s most reliable voters. They are informed and engaged . . . and they make up their minds early. So, word to the wise . . . there’s no time to waste.

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Wear a 1970s Look — at 50

Wear a 1970s Look — at 50

What makes us orgasmically nostalgic — or is it nostalgically orgasmic? — whenever an oldie but goodie pops up as a “new” trend?

This whole 1970s bohemian thing, for example: It gets my bateau bobbing because I’m still 35 — and holding! — in the fashion part of my brain. Are you concerned that a ’70s look might not be “age-appropriate” for you? Well, get over it, sez I, and then get on board: Staying relevant and looking contemporary may require you to look a little “new,” but who doesn’t want that?

Want to test your way into the look? Let me list five action items that will make you feel like Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon and Ali McGraw, all rolled into one:

Madewell Flea Market Flares in Carl WashBuy this year’s flares. If you make just one trendy purchase this season, let this be it. No extreme bells required or desired — especially those with distressed rips or big patch pockets — just a simple, reinvented boot cut in stretch denim with an even wash.

Look for a higher rise that hits your natural waist (also handy for tucking in your tummy and any muffin tops). The hems should just barely skim the ground. But there’s the rub: To be flattering and leg-lengthening, flares must be paired with higher shoes (see below). Try something like Madewell Flea Market Flares in Carl Wash.

Steve Madden Confdnce Black Leather Sandals

Add stacked heels. Sorry, girlfriends: Wedges may be comfy, but they are so-o-o not sexy. Stacked heels are, however — plus they provide the same sturdy support and height without that bulky “clodhopper” look.

Just don’t go too far (I beg of you!) and get platforms; single-sole stacks are chic not clunky, and they work with all types of jeans — flares, skinnies and boyfriend — as well as with ankle-cropped pants and dresses. Take care, though, to avoid ankle-strap versions that shorten your legs or make your ankles swell. Try any of these or similar: Steve Madden Confdnce (were those pesky vowels cramping their style?!), Rockport Seven to 7 75mm Cross-Strap Sandal or Seychelles Lyra.

Zara Tie Belt Midi SkirtModel a midiskirt. This full, breezy, longer A-line skirt defines your waist and lets everything below it breathe free. (Think of it as half a fit-and-flare dress.) Up top, meanwhile, you get to do your own thing: Add a chambray blouse or a crisp white shirt, a fitted tee and ballet flats, a pair of sandals or those new chunky heels.

Here’s an item to pass up, though: Those hippie-dippie ankle-length maxidresses! Consider, for example: Zara Tie Belt Midiskirt or Uniqlo IDLF Georgette Print Skirt.

Ray-Ban 3447 Round Metal Polarized SunglassesBrighten your day. A pair of round, colorful sunglasses can give you a fresh, youthful update in seconds — without changing your makeup, jewelry or hair. Retro shades in metal frames, with mirrored and polarized lenses of blue, violet, orange, pink or classic green, can add a splash of rock-star glamour to even the mousiest Andy (Devil Wears Prada) Sachs type.

Look for UV protection, of course. And steer clear of oversize, thick round frames. Sure, they make a statement, but it’s the wrong one! Eyewear candidates inlcude: Ray-Ban 3447 Round Metal Polarized or Giorgio Armani at Sunglass Hut.

Get discounts on airfare, hotels, car rentals and more — AARP Member Advantages. »

Zara Bell Sleeve TunicStay true to blue. A rich blue denim, linen or chambray tunic makes a versatile topper that you can slip on over a pair of jeans or capris, or belt over a slim skirt.

Don’t fall for the old bohemian blouse this time around: Its floaty, baggy shape does our boobs and bods no favors at 50 and tends to come off as a little costumey at this point. The crisp lines of a tunic, by contrast, sharpen our silhouette in a forgiving way. Try, perhaps: Uniqlo Women Premium Linen Long-Sleeve Tunic or Eileen Fisher Band Collar Organic Linen Tunic.

For more beauty and style tips for women 50-plus, check out The Wardrobe Wakeup: Your Guide to Looking Fabulous at Any Age by a blogger you know well.

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