US Presidentials: Generational Shift



A longstanding platitude of American politics is that older voters tend to prefer Republican candidates, while younger voters lean towards Democrats. This pattern held in recent elections. In 2020, Democrat Joe Biden secured the support of voters under 50, particularly capturing 65% of the 18-24 age group.

Meanwhile, Republican Donald Trump garnered 52% of voters over 50, who represented more than half of the electorate. This division was evident in 2016 as well, when Trump won the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. Clinton performed better among younger voters (ages 18-44), while Trump was favored by those aged 45 and older.


The Historic Struggle

Historically, Republican candidates have struggled with younger voters. The last time voters under 30 preferred a Republican was in 1988 when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis. Voters over 65 haven’t predominantly supported a Democrat since Al Gore in 2000, who won the popular vote but lost the election.

However, the 2024 presidential election is challenging these established norms. Both major candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, are in their late 70s, making their fitness to serve a significant issue. Surprisingly, older voters are showing a tendency to favor Biden, while younger voters are considering Trump.

For instance, a recent Marist poll in Pennsylvania indicated a close race, with Trump at 47% and Biden at 45%, a difference within the margin of error. Notably, Trump is making gains among voters of color and is nearly tied with Biden among voters under 45. In contrast, older voters, traditionally a strong base for Trump, are now almost evenly split.

This trend is not isolated to Pennsylvania. A nationwide Quinnipiac University poll from May showed Biden and Trump evenly splitting younger voters, while Biden led among voters 65 and older. Although the extent of this shift varies across different polls, the general movement suggests a departure from past voting behaviors.


Age and Experience Connection

Biden is actively addressing concerns about his age, which have been a recurring theme in his reelection campaign. First Lady Jill Biden emphasized his age as a strength, saying, “Joe isn’t one of the most effective presidents of our lives despite his age, but because of it,” during a campaign stop in Wisconsin aimed at bolstering support among older voters.

Both Biden and Trump, born in the 1940s, resonate with older voters who lived through significant historical events like World War II and the Cold War. This connection is something Biden’s campaign is leveraging, particularly among baby boomers, who now make up a large portion of the senior vote.

Interestingly, despite Biden’s increasing support among older voters, many still have reservations about his age. A February New York Times/Siena College poll revealed that nearly three-quarters of voters aged 65 and older considered Biden too old to be effective as president, compared to less than half who felt the same about Trump.


As the 2024 election approaches, these shifting dynamics could significantly impact the presidential betting odds. Biden’s focus on senior-friendly policies, like lowering Medicare drug costs, is helping him gain support among older voters.


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