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6 Political Truths About 50+ Americans

Americans are more divided along ideological lines - and animosity between Democrats and Republicans is deeper and more extensive - than at any time in the past 20 years, a new report from the Pew Research Center shows.

Republicans vs. Democrats

As part of a yearlong study of political polarization in the United States, Pew conducted the largest political survey in its history, polling more than 10,000 adults from Jan. 23 to March 16. It's a mother lode of age-segmented data on the political attitudes and inclinations of American adults. Here are interesting findings we mined:

Older Americans are a lot more conservative than younger Americans. Some 34 percent of Americans 50 and older are "consistently conservative" or "mostly conservative," Pew says, compared with only 20 percent of those ages 18-49.

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Older Americans are the Energizer bunnies of the voting public. Some 63 percent of Americans 50 and older say that they "always vote"; only 38 percent of younger adults do.

Both political parties get pretty bad marks from most older Americans. The Democratic Party gets unfavorable ratings from 52 percent of Americans 50 and older; the Republican Party, 56 percent. And it gets worse: 21 percent say the Democratic Party's policies "are so misguided that they threaten the nation's well-being," and 18 percent say that of the Republican Party.

When the talk turns to politics, odds are that it's older adults who are doing the talking. Some 48 percent of Americans 50 and older say that they discuss government and politics with others "a few times a week" or "nearly every day," compared with only 37 percent of younger adults.

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Younger people favor expanding Social Security more than older people. Yep, you read that one right. About two-thirds of all American adults - 70 percent of those 50-plus and 64 percent of those under 50 - say that Social Security benefits should not be reduced in any way. But when that group is asked whether Social Security should "cover more people, with greater benefits," more younger adults than older adults (29 percent vs. 25 percent) say yes.

Medicare notwithstanding, most older adults say it's not the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage. Some 54 percent of those 50 and older take that position, compared with 43 percent who say that it is the government's responsibility. Among adults under 50, the tables turn, with 50 percent saying that providing health care coverage is the government's responsibility and 47 percent saying that it isn't.

Illustration: teekid/iStock


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