The Undifferentiated Grey Mass

At Ten Miles Square, Keith Humphreys makes an important point in reacting to the discussion–here at PA and elsewhere–about the dynamics of the “senior vote:”

[W]ith the senior population currently at 41.4 million and growing rapidly, underestimating its diversity could lead to serious political forecasting errors.

The current senior population includes veterans of World War II and veterans of the Viet Nam War; African-Americans whose adult life was lived entirely after the passage of the 1960s Civil Rights Acts, as well as many who lived for decades under Jim Crow; women who made decisions about marriage and career prior to the founding of NOW and women who made them afterwards; people who liked Ike and people who were too young to vote for him. Those people just turning 65 thus see many political issues differently than do those oldsters who are 75 or 85.

It will require a conscious change in familiar categories for pollsters and others to begin slicing and dicing seniors more carefully, and trends are trends, whether or not they disguise more nuanced sub-trends. But Keith is right: with so large and growing a part of the population and the electorate, it makes sense to treat it as something other than an undifferentiated grey mass.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.