Get Out the Vote: Good news about old age? You’re more likely to vote.

This entry is part 3 of 10 in the series Get Out the Vote
Voter Turnout by Sex and Age 2008 US Presidential Election

SOURCE: US Census Bureau.

NOTE FROM DR. WAYNE BAKER: Contributing columnist Terry Gallagher is exploring the values Americans place on voting. This is his third column …

If you’re looking for a bright spot in the declining voter participation rate, look up.

The numbers are clear: The older you get, the more likely you are to vote.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that more than three-quarters of Americans older than 65 are registered to vote, compared with fewer than half of those aged 18 to 24.

In the 2008 presidential election, more than 70 percent of Americans between 65 and 74 years old voted, compared with just over 40 percent of those aged 18 to 24.

Political scientists differ about why one group votes more than another but social pressure to conform with the expectations of your neighbors and friends definitely plays a role.

“Even when you’re old enough to live in a retirement community, it turns out, there’s peer pressure,” according to a recent column by Detroit News columnist Neal Rubin. Rubin was writing about a suburban Detroit retirement community where 919 residents out of 1039 are registered to vote.

And vote they do: 87 percent in November 2012, compared with an overall national rate of around 57 percent. In that year’s primary election, more than 64 percent of the residents voted, compared with around 25 percent elsewhere.

“We were almost worried we were going to run out of ballots,” the city clerk told Rubin. “It was a great problem to have.”

No wonder most politicians are reluctant to suggest reducing Social Security benefits, what Tip O’Neill called “the third rail of American politics.”

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  1. Bob Bruttell says

    What distresses me about the vote is that it is not entirely irrational for some not to vote. It is not easy to discern whether one party or one candidate will help the middle class or the working class or marginalized people more or less. Nobody has delivered education, or jobs or transportation to much of any place in our region – and especially not to the areas of isolated poverty like Detroit, Pontiac, Flint and Inkster. I suppose a Detroit young person in principle should get up early and walk to the polls to vote for Mr. Ficano or Mr. Evans, but really, what significant difference is the result of that vote likely to make in her life?