While public support for the plan fell to a new low (42% support, 53% oppose -- down five points in two weeks), the elderly emerged as the strongest opposition group. Those over 65 rejected the plan by 39-56 while almost half -- 46% -- said they were "strongly opposed" to it.While elderly voters don't vote for a long time (as compared to 30 year old voters), they tend to be far less fickle or driven by the fad of the moment. Thus, when elderly voters shift their voting habits, as Morris and McCann argue, it is often done on a more or less permanent basis.
The group that supports the plan most strongly is those likely to be least affected, voters under the age of thirty, 67% of whom support the proposals.
The Democratic Senators and Congressmen can well choose to ignore polls. Polls go up. Polls go down. They may figure that the public will have moved on by the time they run for re-election, particularly those Senators who are not up in 2010. With four or six years to go in their terms, they can afford a relaxed view of polling data.
But the Democratic Party as a whole cannot afford to ignore a massive defection in the ranks of the elderly, one of its key building blocks. Ever since the New Deal coalition was cobbled together by FDR, the elderly have been a major component. Worried about Republican designs on their Social Security, they vote overwhelmingly Democratic.
But the Obama proposals, which many see correctly as a major cut in Medicare, might be seminal in driving them en masse away from the Democrats.
The public outcry against the Democrats plan for health care reform is very broad based and as voters under 30 start to learn just who will be paying for grandma and grandpa's health care, not to mention mom and dad, and all those chuckleheads over there, etc., I think their tune will change. Voters under the age to 30 still, for the most part, don't pay much in the way of taxes--yet. So they don't feel the pinch, but when their standard of living turns out to be lower than that of their parents, well--like I said, the tune will change.
But Democrats have another problem. Voters under 30 voted for Barack Obama--that support does not translate to an uncool, unhip 65 year old Congressman that most voters under 30 couldn't name, much less recognize if they passed on the street.
Simply put, the loss of the elderly vote cannot be offset by a hoped for increase in the youth vote.