Joe Biden Is Winning Big With Older Voters
Similarly, in New Hampshire, the surveys found Biden drawing just 22 percent among those aged 18 to 35 and trailing Sanders. But Biden again pulled narrowly ahead among middle-aged voters and soared to 39 percent among those older than 55, once more about four times the support of his closest rival, Sanders.
South Carolina, which has a large African American population, was Biden’s best state in the early polling: He led among all three age groups. But even there, Biden’s support grew from 34 percent among voters under 35, to 46 percent among those 35 to 55, to 52 percent among the oldest generation.
Other recent public polls in New Hampshire and South Carolina have found very similar patterns. And it’s not just these three key states where Biden has an advantage with older voters: In Pennsylvania, a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday showed Biden and Sanders running about even among voters younger than 50, but Biden leading him by almost 12 to one among those who are older.
Biden’s greater strength with older voters partly reflects the
unusual longevity of his career. If Democrats pick Biden in 2020, he will win
his party’s presidential nomination exactly 50 years after he
was first elected to public office, on the New Castle County Council in
Delaware in 1970. As I’ve written, that would be the longest span between
initial election and first presidential nomination for any nominee in any major
party since the formation of the modern party system in 1828. His rivals
believe that many of the positions Biden took earlier in his extended career—from his opposition to school bussing to his support for free trade and tough-on-crime measures—will prove unpalatable today, particularly to younger
Though age generally has been overshadowed by race, gender, and class in most media analyses of Democratic divisions, it has proven to be a powerful and durable dynamic in the past two Democratic primaries. In 2008, according to a cumulative CNN analysis of exit polls that year, Obama won about three-fifths of voters younger than 30, and led Hillary Clinton narrowly among those aged 30 to 49; Clinton, in mirror image, led narrowly among voters aged 50 to 64 and won exactly three-fifths of voters 65 and older.
In Clinton’s 2016 clash with Sanders, the age divide was even sharper. Sanders won fully 71 percent of voters younger than 30 in the exit polls, and carried that age group in 25 of the 27 states where exit polls were conducted. Clinton won a matching 71 percent of seniors and carried them in 25 of 27 states.
Clinton’s advantages were especially pronounced at the intersection of age and gender. In the crucial South Carolina primary that year, she carried over nine in 10 African American women older than 45, an incredible result, according to detailed figures from Edison Research, which conducts the exit polls for a consortium of media outlets. She also won about two-thirds of white women older than 45 in both Iowa and South Carolina, according to Edison, and a majority of them in New Hampshire, a state where Sanders beat her with almost every other group. By contrast, white women under 45 gave Sanders over 70 percent of their votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and nearly 60 percent in South Carolina, Edison found.