Tweaking outreach to older voters

voter contact

A recent Pew Research Center Study on Older Americans has implications for field, phone and GOTV plans in the fall.  This Feb 18th analysis of census trends over several decades and recent surveys revealed the following:   

  • A smaller portion of older voters are living alone now—only about one in four.
  • We are seeing a rise in two-voter Older American households as life expectancies for men grow.
  • We see that older women are also more likely to be living with children or other non relatives than ever before.   The trend with men is less clear. 
  • Now only 11% of adults ages 85+ live in nursing homes, the smallest percentage in decades.   


How does that impact the nuts and bolts of progressive political voter contact?

  • Seniors are much more likely to have land lines, and are much more likely to answer phone when called. They are reached more economically by phone than any other age group.
  • With more two-voter senior households than ever before, canvassers, direct mail programs and phonebanks can focus more on the “Two for One” households.  
  • In tight races where seniors are likely to differ from their children or grandchildren on a candidate or an issue, careful use of the voter file is in order: Mailing to Grandpa may not be an option if his son or grandson has the daily chore of collecting the mail. A phone call, where the operator declines to speak with anyone in the home from a younger generation, is a better option. Similarly, canvassers who have Grandpa on their target list should have a Plan B script if a younger relative come to the door.
  • Traditional absentee vote programs that focused on nursing homes will no longer pay the dividends of years past. Seniors are more scattered. 

We encourage political professionals to read the Pew Study for your own insights into how the changing circumstances of Older Americans impacts political communications in 2016.


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