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Mitt Romney’s “favorable” rating has been on something of a roller coaster in 2012. But the more older Republican primary voters have seen him, the more they seem to like him.

Romney, who abandoned his 2008 quest for the Republican presidential nomination soon after Super Tuesday, has been doing better among 50-plus voters in the GOP primaries this year, according to exit polls. With few exceptions, Romney improved his standing among 50- to 64-year-old Republicans as well as Republicans 65 and older.

And while Romney, who’s now the presumptive GOP nominee after sweeping five more states on Tuesday, has done better overall in the individual primaries, the exit polls show that he has made even greater inroads among sub-groups of older voters. In both Michigan and Illinois, for example, Romney did better among older Republican voters than he did among GOP voters as a whole.

Romney took 39 percent of the vote in Michigan’s GOP primary in 2008, including 39 percent of the 50- to 64-year-old vote and 41 percent of the 65-plus vote. This year, Romney took 41 percent of the overall vote (slightly better) and upped his share of the older vote to 44 percent of those 50-64 and 49 percent of those 65 and up.

In Illinois, Romney got 29 percent of the GOP primary vote in 2008, and did worse among older voters, capturing 23 percent of the 50 to 64-year-old vote and 27 percent of the 65-plus vote. But this year, Romney’s strength was among older voters. He took 47 percent of the overall primary vote, winning 51 percent of the 50- to 64-year-old vote, and 49 percent of the 65-plus vote.

What about Romney’s rivals? Rick Santorum mostly did worse among older voters than he did overall. Newt Gingrich has generally fared about the same among older voters as he has among all primary voters. Ron Paul has done best among younger voters, though they’ve account for only a small segment of GOP primary voters.

These numbers, of course, don’t indicate how older Democrats and independents will vote in November, nor do they predict turnout. But with older voters commanding a bigger chunk of the overall GOP electorate, the party’s 50+ segment clearly gave him an important boost. — Susan Milligan

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