In 12 states with competitive Senate races, older voters lean slightly more Republican than younger voters, according to a poll for National Public Radio. But the margins are narrower than those in nationwide polls conducted a few weeks ago.
In the NPR poll, likely voters ages 50 to 64 split 50 percent for Republicans and 45 percent for Democrats — and among those 65 and older, the split was 50 percent to 43 percent. Overall, voters in the 12 states gave Republicans an edge of 48 percent to 45 percent.
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The survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted Sept. 20 to Sept. 24 by two Washington-based polling firms, Democracy Corps and Resurgent Republic.
By contrast, a poll released last month by the New York Times and CBS showed GOP Senate candidates in some — but not all — of the battleground states with margins of more than 20 percent among older voters.
The NPR survey shows wide gaps in how much importance likely voters place on the candidates' position on Medicare and Social Security.
Overall, 28 percent of those questions included the two programs when asked to identify the three issues most important to them in deciding for whom to vote in the upcoming Senate elections. Among the 10 choices offered, the only issues that drew a greater response were the economy and jobs (55 percent), the Affordable Care Act (36 percent) and foreign policy and ISIS (33 percent).
Respondents who said they intend to vote for Democratic Senate candidates were much more likely to list Social Security and Medicare among their top three issues (36 percent compared with 19 percent of those intending to vote for GOP candidates).
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Nearly a third of all older voters listed Social Security and Medicare among their top three issues — 31 percent of those ages 50 to 64 and 32 percent of those 65 and older — compared with only 13 percent for voters under 30.
Even with the Republicans' narrow overall advantage, an NPR report on the poll concluded that Senate candidates face "an electorate where nobody likes anybody" and that the November results could tip either way.
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