Seniors out in force to back Hillary Clinton

Volunteers operating a phone bank for American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Lake Worth, on the day of the Florida primary, March 15. Mrs Clinton owes much of her victory in Florida and other states to the strong support of voters aged 65
Volunteers operating a phone bank for American presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Lake Worth, on the day of the Florida primary, March 15. Mrs Clinton owes much of her victory in Florida and other states to the strong support of voters aged 65 and older. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

LAKE WORTH (Florida) • The afternoon of the Florida primaries last week, Ms Sylvia Wolfson, 87, and more than a dozen other retirees diligently called voters to remind them to be sure to vote for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Ms Wolfson said she knew Clinton rival Senator Bernie Sanders excited young people, but friends and neighbours in her retirement community were rooting for the former first lady and secretary of state.

"I've been a Hillary fan since she came out of Arkansas," Ms Wolfson said. "We remember how she just hasn't stopped."

Mrs Clinton can thank Ms Wolfson and voters like her not just for her double-digit victory in Florida, but also for propelling her in every state she has won this presidential primary season.

Indeed, while Mr Sanders' message of political revolution has made him the choice of the Snapchat generation, Mrs Clinton is doing just fine with voters who came of age with Polaroids.

In the states that voted last week, she captured voters aged 65 and older by large margins, ranging from 39 per cent in Missouri to 54 per cent in Ohio.

Mrs Clinton's older supporters say they were drawn to her for several reasons, including her experience, her foreign policy background and, especially for women, the possibility of electing a woman president for the first time.

In Virginia, Texas and other southern states that voted earlier, she won more than 80 per cent of these voters, often matching or beating the support Mr Sanders received from voters aged 18 to 29.

The two age groups are comparable in size, but those 65 and older show up at the polls far more often - 72 per cent of them voted in 2012, according to the United States Census Bureau, compared with 45 per cent among those younger than 30.

Mrs Clinton's margin among older voters this time round is even larger than in the 2008 primaries, when they favoured her by 25 percentage points over Mr Barack Obama. And her strength in this age group transcends race and ethnicity, income and education level, polls show.

Mrs Clinton's campaign acknowledges its deficit among younger "millennials", and with an eye towards the November elections, she has tried to woo them.

She made a guest appearance on the Comedy Central TV series Broad City last week, had pop singer Katy Perry perform at a rally, and has used Lena Dunham, the creator and star of comedy series Girls, as a campaign surrogate. But her campaign has quietly courted seniors with equal fervour. For star power, she has used singer Tony Bennett and actress Jamie Lee Curtis.

She also has a policy agenda that appeals to older voters, including a plan to fight the rising costs of prescription drugs, a tax credit to family members taking care of sick or elderly loved ones, and a promise to more than double the investment into Alzheimer's research.

In her victory speech in Florida, last Tuesday, Mrs Clinton vowed to "protect and expand social security for those who need it the most".

Mrs Clinton's older supporters said they were drawn to her for several reasons, including her experience, her foreign policy background and, especially for women, the possibility of electing a woman president for the first time.

Some spoke of a connection that goes beyond policy.

In Mrs Clinton, who is 68, some said they saw a reflection of themselves - less liberal and eager for revolution than they were in their youth, perhaps, but still drawn to the same causes.

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2016, with the headline 'Seniors out in force to back Clinton'. Print Edition | Subscribe