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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