Friday, November 03, 2006

still seeking young voters

I know I have made this point before, but people still argue this point with me. It really is no secret anywhere that the key to elections are older voters. That is doubly true here in a region which has not only a large elderly population, but also an older population that is much more likely than elsewhere to have been in their current home a long time. It still surprises people just how extreme an impact this has here. I do realize people do not like hearing this but it remains true. Consider the most recent general election in 2005. General elections typically get more young voters than primary or special elections even. Yet here is the age breakdown of actual voters from November 2005 in Allegheny County.
So voters 60 and over make up 43% of the vote, those under 30 make up 5%. Thus for every voter under age 30 there were literally 8.5 voters age 60 and over. There were even 3 times as many voters age 60 and over compared to all the voters under age 40. If that sounds bad it really does not reflect the actual weighting a campaign would place on the two groups (young vs. old) of voters. If you were deciding how to spend your money targeting voters you have to take into account a few other things. If you identified an older voter from a recent election, other than for mortality and rather low migration rates you can pretty much be sure that voter will be voting in an upcoming election. Even if you find one of those twenty something voters.... That voter has a much higher probability of just moving away before the next election. Even if they don't move out of the region they have a high rate of moving to another district/municipality within the region. That and even though there are some young 'super voters' who always vote, most young voters can only only be counted on to vote intermittently, so you cant be sure that voter you found will even show up next time around... further diminishing their intrinsic value. In statistics this is the meaning of expected values. All of those factors compound to make the benefit of finding and convincing a young voter to support you even less than the already scary voter totals imply.

2 Comments:

Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Really, who is arguing that there are a large number of young people voting? That the elderly disproportionately vote has been common knowledge since ... well ... forever.

If you believe the CNN exit polls for Gov then 11% of the voters were under 30, and 29% were 65 and older.

Sunday, November 12, 2006 12:13:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

just remember the state is a lot younger than Allegheny County is in many ways. So you need to adjust those statewide %'s a fair bit for what that breakout is locally. My point is not to restate the national truism but to point out that local conditions: more elderly and in particular proportionally more older people who have lived in their current homes a long long time, compound the obvious to a much more extreme case here.

Who says these things? Plenty of talking heads nationally and locally. I could share with you some fairly emotional email I have received to that end. Some rather obscene. One would think I am saying bad things about young people. I am not saying young people shouldn't vote, nor do I think efforts to get young people to vote are bad.. far from it. but those who think there has been some big shift locally are not doing their preferred candidates any good and borders on misleading the public.

Consider that I also think most elderly voters are more than willing to vote for younger candidates. So an extremely old voter demographic does not necessarily mean you have to have old politicians (city is a case in point these days isnt it).. but I bet most younger candidates who get elected do so with support of older voters. It would be an interesting study to see if any local politician has ever been elected without winning the support of older voters. Mathematically it's almost impossible here, but I wonder.

Sunday, November 12, 2006 11:10:00 AM  

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