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Age Makes a Difference in This Year’s Senate Races

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Recent surveys of all of this year’s Senate contests clearly show that the older voters are, the more likely they are to support Republican candidates. But the patterns vary from state to state, and some Democrats in battleground contests are doing better than others with older voters.

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The results were based on more than 100,000 online interviews conducted in all 50 states from Aug. 18 to Sept. 2 by YouGov of Palo Alto, Calif., for the New York Times/CBS News Battleground Tracker, and released on Sept. 7.

    • In the most dramatic examples, two Democratic senators — both first-termers — were more than 20 percentage points behind their GOP challengers among respondents 65 and older. In North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis led Sen. Kay Hagan 58 percent to 32 percent within that age group, but only 40 percent to 38 percent among voters ages 45 to 64 and 41 percent to 39 percent overall. Likewise, in Colorado, Republican Rep. Cory Gardner led Sen. Mark Udall 58 percent to 33 percent among 65-plus voters and 43 percent to 40 percent among voters ages 45-64; with younger voters factored in, however, Udall led 43 percent to 41 percent overall.
    • In Arkansas, GOP Rep. Tom Cotton led Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor with a 10-point lead among 65-plus voters (47 percent to 37 percent) and a 9-point lead among voters ages 45 to 64, but with only a 3-point lead overall.
    • In Alaska, Republican Daniel Sullivan led Democratic Sen. Mark Begich 45 percent to 37 percent among 65-plus voters and by an even bigger margin, 48 percent to 30 percent, among voters 45 to 65, but Begich’s big leads within younger age groups narrowed Sullivan’s margin overall to just 2 points (39 percent to 37 percent). And in Virginia, Sen. Mark Warner ran 9 points behind his Republican challenger Ed Gillespie among 65-plus voters, but with big margins in all other age groups Warner led 49 percent to 35 percent overall.
    • In Iowa, in the hotly contested battle to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, Republican Joni Ernst had a 13-point lead over Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley (48 percent to 35 percent) among 65-plus voters but just a 2-point lead among voters ages 45 to 64 and the same margin among all voters.
    • The Senate race in Louisiana is unusual in that it features three major candidates: Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and two GOP challengers, Rep. Bill Cassidy and tea party favorite Rob Maness (who is running a distant third but draws his strongest support from 65-plus voters). Cassidy had an 18-point lead over Landrieu among voters in both the older age brackets (45 to 64 and 65-plus), but Landrieu’s wide margins in younger age groups narrowed Cassidy’s lead overall to just 3 percentage points.

Some of the results may be skewed by relatively small sample sizes in each group.

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