Biden sees older voters emerge as bright spot

President Biden’s reelection campaign is seeking to appeal to older voters in an effort to tap into the power of the historically reliable voting bloc.

Last week, the president’s reelection campaign rolled out its “Seniors for Biden-Harris” effort, which will be led by first lady Jill Biden. The effort will include bingo nights and pickleball events in key states including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nevada and Arizona.

The push comes as Biden has struggled to appeal to key voting groups, resulting in less-than-desirable poll numbers ahead of Election Day. But older voters are proving to be a bright spot for the campaign. A Fox News poll released this week showed Biden up 2 points over former President Trump for the first time since October. And among voters 65 years and older, the poll showed Biden up 15 points over Trump.

“Seniors are up for grabs,” said Bob Ward, a pollster at the Republican firm Fabrizio Ward. “It’s in their best interest to focus on senior voters just as I think it’s in the Trump campaign’s best interest to focus on senior voters.”

Ward worked with the Democratic firm Impact Research to poll voters from 44 of the most competitive congressional districts on behalf of AARP. According to the findings released Thursday, Biden leads by 5 points among voters 65 years and older.

At the same time, voters between the ages 50 and 64 appear to be leaning toward Trump. The AARP poll found Trump leading by 15 points with that group.

“Older voters are not a monolith,” Ward said. “The group right below seniors is overwhelmingly Republican. It is the most Republican age group across the electorate.”

Both voting blocs — 50 to 64 years old, and 65 years and older — are some of the most motivated voters. Eighty-four percent of voters over 50 said they were “extremely motivated” to vote in November, according to the AARP survey. Meanwhile, 63 percent of voters under 50 said the same. Another upside to appealing to older voters is if they are retired, they may have more time to aid the campaign through phone banking and canvassing.

The support for Biden among voters 65 years and older marks a generational realignment for Democrats. Since the 2000 presidential election, the voting bloc has traditionally swung toward Republicans.

“This has been a huge swing in the Trump era,” said Jon Reinish, a Democratic strategist. “Donald Trump has soured older voters who do not stand with extremism, who do not stand with instability and who are very much against his disruption [and] lack of civility.”

That sentiment has been reflected in other recent polling. A Quinnipiac University poll released last month showed that 35 percent of voters 65 years and older said democracy was the most urgent issue facing the country, compared to 10 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 who said the same.

The data and Biden’s effort come as his campaign struggles to appeal to younger voters, particularly members of Generation Z. A Harvard Youth poll released in late April found Biden leading Trump 45 to 37 percent support among people ages 18 to 29. For perspective, Biden had a 23-point advantage over Trump with the age group four years ago.

Biden has struggled with younger voters of color as well. A poll released by the University of Chicago’s GenForward project earlier this month showed Biden’s wavering support among young Black and Latino voters.

Younger voters have taken particular issue with Biden for his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas. The issue could prove to be detrimental to Biden in certain swing states, like Michigan.

But in Arizona, another critical swing state, the political landscape looks different. Census data from 2020 found that 16 percent of Arizona’s population of 7.5 million people were 65 years or older. Biden carried Arizona by less than a percentage point in the 2020 presidential election.

Democratic strategists argue that Biden doing better among voters of that age group could offset damage from the potential loss of younger voters.

Jamal Simmons, a Democratic strategist and former communications director for Vice President Harris, said Biden doing better with older voters could help “blunt” the potential loss of young voters who are not as enthusiastic about the campaign.

“What’s helpful for Biden is older voters are more educated, they have more assets, and tend to be more informed about what’s happening in the news, and people who are more informed tend to like Donald Trump less,” Simmons said.

Simmons emphasized that young voters are still very much a driving part of the political and cultural conversation.

“The temptation to pay attention to younger voters is very high because they give so much energy, they volunteer, and they really set the cultural moment for the country,” he said.

However, some data points show that younger voters are still less enthusiastic ahead of the presidential race.

December poll from Harvard’s Institute of Politics found that only 49 percent of voters in the 18- to 29-year-old age group who voted in the 2020 election said they “definitely” will be voting in November’s election.

One of Biden’s issues with young voters is that they are not as familiar with him, unlike older voters who watched his Senate tenure, multiple presidential runs and vice presidency. This dynamic has played a role in shifting the Democratic coalition that was key to former President Obama’s victories in 2008 and 2012.

“It’s always helpful to remember that these age categories are not static,” Simmons said. “People who are 65 today were in their 50’s when Barack Obama ran for president.”

“We think of Joe Biden as being a very known quantity, but the truth is for voters who are in their early 20s, they don’t really know that much about Joe Biden,” he said.

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