“Old, white” voters swung Tuesday’s midterm elections to the Republican party, allowing the GOP to take control of both houses of the U.S. Congress for the first time since 2008, a Democratic political consultant said in an MSNBC interview Wednesday. But Democrats should take heart, Jimmy Williams said in the interview.
“Those old, white people,” Williams told interviewer Krystal Ball. “They’re going to die someday. And who’s going to be there to replace them? People that want you to be for them, not against them.”
The remark sparked outrage in conservative media circles, with American Thinker blog, for example, sniping, “old hippies are going to die someday too.”
But demographic surveys of the 2014 midterm electorate show that what Williams’ comments had some facts to back them up. The people who voted in Tuesday’s election were the oldest bunch of voters in decades, leading one Democrat to label the turnout of younger voters for Tuesday’s balloting “pathetic.”
At the same time, the gap between the oldest voters and the younger ones was even greater than in the 2010 midterm elections, in which voters over the age of 60 made up 32 percent of the turnout allowed Republicans to wrest control of the House of Representatives back from the Democrats after only two years of a Democratic majority.
In 2010, only 12 percent of voters were younger than age 30.
This year, the disparity was tilted even more to the senior end of the age spectrum, as this graph assembled by NBC News illustrates.
While the under-30 crowd held steady at 12 percent from the 2010 midterms, the 60-plus demographic made up 37 percent — more than one in every three — Americans who cast ballots in Tuesday’s nationwide election.
As the chart shows, turnout among younger voters is notably higher in presidential election years.
At one time, the demographic split would have made little difference in an election.
As NBC News also pointed out, “Throughout the 1990s, the youngest and oldest voters tended to vote the same way. For example, in the 1994 election which resulted in a Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, 48% of voters under 30 voted for the Democratic candidate for Congress and an identical 48% of voter age 60 and older did the same.”
But beginning in 2004, something strange happened. Older and younger voters began to take dramatically different political paths. By 2010, 55 percent of the under-30 voters cast ballots for Democrats, compared to only 41 percent of over-60 voters.
This year, the gap closed somewhat, but remained massive, with 45 percent of older voters supporting Democrats, while the young Democratic base maintained its 55 percent level.
The ethnic breakdown of the 2014 elections remains unclear less than two days after polls closed, so how many of those old voters were white has not yet been determined.
As for whether Williams is correct that the older voters will “die,” allowing younger, Democratic voters to assert electoral dominance, as of 2014, the life expectancy of the average American was 79 years — ranking 53rd in the world — meaning that on average, the youngest of that 37 percent the over-60 voting bloc have nine more national elections — five presidential and four midterm elections — to make their mark.