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Older Voters Tilt Strongly to GOP in Senate Battleground States

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Older voters were a dominant part of the GOP’s nationwide coalition as Republicans took control of the Senate and apparently made a double-digit gain of House seats in the Nov. 4 election. Similar patterns applied in virtually all of the Senate battleground states, according to a national Election Day survey.

Of four broad age groups, voters 65 and older were the strongest supporters of Republican candidates, according to data in the national exit poll conducted by the National Election Pool, a consortium of ABC News, the Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News and NBC News. The data was shared with many other news organizations.

The nationwide total of nearly 20,000 respondents showed that Republicans led 56 percent to 43 percent among those 65 and older, and 52 percent to 46 percent among those ages 45 to 64. By contrast, Democrats led 55 percent to 43 percent among those 18 to 29, and 51 percent to 47 percent among those 30 to 44.

Similar exit polls were conducted in most states with a competitive campaign for a Senate seat. In at least four states where Republicans took what had been a Democratic-controlled seat, they performed best among the oldest voters.

Of those states, the age disparity was most pronounced in Iowa and North Carolina. Republican Joni Ernst won Iowa over Rep. Bruce Braley by 56 percent to 42 percent among those 65 and older, and 52 percent to 47 percent among those 45 to 64. Ernst lost 43 percent to 54 percent among those 18 to 29, and 48 percent to 49 percent among those 30 to 44. In North Carolina, Republican Thom Tillis’ contest with Sen. Kay Hagan had comparable margins.

In Arkansas and Colorado, both successful Republican challengers fared best among voters 65 and older. But each of those winners — Reps. Tom Cotton and Cory Gardner, respectively — ran slightly better in the 30-to-44 age bracket than among respondents ages 45 to 64. In both cases, they took a majority of each age group.

Similar age breakdowns also applied where Republicans prevailed in three contests for GOP-held seats that had become competitive: Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Pat Roberts of Kansas, and non-incumbent David Perdue of Georgia.

Interestingly, these age patterns did not apply in battleground states where Democrats had the lead on Election Night. In New Hampshire, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen led in each age category in her narrow victory over Republican Scott Brown.  That also was the case with the comfortable victory of Democratic Rep. Gary Peters of Michigan, which earlier was viewed as a close contest.

In the tight contest in Virginia where Republican Ed Gillespie has not conceded, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner’s overall lead was closer to the predominant pattern, which included strong showings among the two youngest age groups. Gillespie led Warner 54 percent to 46 percent among 65-and-older voters, and 52 percent to 46 percent among those ages 45 to 64.

The exit poll was not conducted in Montana and South Dakota, where Republicans cruised to their takeover of Democratic-held Senate seats.

In West Virginia, the seventh state with a Republican pickup, Republican Shelley Moore Capito won with similar margins in all age ranges in her 62 percent to 34 percent overall victory over Democrat Natalie Tennant. She was the only GOP contender in a battleground state who got more than 60 percent of the vote.

No exit poll was conducted in Alaska, where Republican Dan Sullivan had a lead over Sen. Mark Begich. In Louisiana, the overall age pattern applied to the combined performance of the two leading Republicans, Rep. Bill Cassidy and Rob Maness. Cassidy and Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu both fell short of the 50 percent requirement and will meet in a Dec. 6 runoff.


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