Most political junkies think more young people and Hispanics vote nowadays than a decade ago. And, with some exceptions, they are right.
In Colorado both the youth vote and the Hispanic vote grew substantially across both presidential and gubernatorial elections since 2000, according to the US Bureau of the Census. Voters under 25 grew 91% from 2000 to 2008 … and 20% from 2002 to 2010. Similarly, Hispanic voter participation grew 23% from 2000 to 2008 and 22% from 2002 to 2010.
Let's translate that into raw numbers. This chart shows total votes, in thousands, in Colorado for the past six elections, plus Hispanic and youth votes.
Impressive numbers, especially in 2008.
Another group of voters in Colorado has also grown substantially, those 65 and older.
Between 2000 and 2008 senior voter numbers grew 51% (a raw increase of 134,000). From 2002 to 2010 they grew 44% (in raw numbers up 21,000).
Senior voters have the signal virtue of being far more steady voters. Hispanic and youth voters increased in numbers, but they were far less likely to vote in non-presidential years. Look again at the table. Compare the first election (2000) to the last (2010). Young voters dropped 20,000 and Hispanics dropped 14,000 across the decade. Between those same two elections senior voters grew 154,000.
In 2010, no baby boomers had yet turned 65. Imagine what boomers will do to elections once they join the 65-and-older crowd which began this year.
Democratic analysts claim Hispanics and young voters are the key to Democratic control of American politics in future years. 2008 seemed to prove their theory. So, what happened in 2010 – despite the Bennet win here in Colorado?
The short answer is the Democrat's healthcare law. Seniors feared it would harm Medicare. 53% of seniors with opinions want to repeal what the Democrats passed in 2010. In Colorado, senior strength showed more strongly in the Attorney General's race than the US Senate. Among seniors Republican John Suthers led his Democratic opponent by 22%. That was twice Suthers' lead among all voters.
And senior support for Republicans is not limited to 2010. Older voters backed Republicans over Democrats in five elections starting in 1994 (excluding 2002), but backed Democrats in only three.
Yet neither party should rest on its laurels. In 2008 here in Colorado, the Democrats' two groups outnumbered seniors by 66,00 (ignoring double-counting of under 25 Hispanics). In 2010, seniors bested young and Hispanic voters by 147,000 votes. That's a scary swing!