Let us one more time ask the question: Just how old were the voters in our 2015 election?
Range All Pct ====================== 18-30 21,998 8.2% 31-40 32,359 12.1% 41-50 39,074 14.6% 51-60 58,610 21.9% 61+ 115,755 43.2%
The short answer is “not as old as we’ve seen in previous elections“. That’s a high-water mark for the 30-and-under crowd, by a considerable amount, as well as a high score for the 31-to-40 consort. The 61+ group is smaller than it was in the last few elections, though of course that is relative. It’s smaller as a proportion to this electorate, but this electorate was quite large, so the over-60 share is much bigger in absolute terms than before – there were nearly as many over-60s this year as there were total voters in 2011 – even if it’s a smaller piece of the pie.
I can’t easily tell you what the average age of a Houston voter in 2015 was. I’ve heard several people cite a figure of 69 years old, which I believe comes from the KUHF/KHOU poll in October. Based on the ranges I’ve shown above, I’d guess that 69 is a little high to be the average age, but it’s probably not too far off from that. The point I’m trying to make here is that this election wasn’t driven by a frenzied turnout of senior citizens. Turnout was up across the board, and while this electorate was hardly young – less than 35% were under 50 – there was more age diversity than we have seen in the past.
Where you will legitimately find a younger electorate is in the new voters than showed up this year. Here’s that table, with the accompanying one for the set of folks who voted in all elections since 2009 following it:
Range New Pct ====================== 18-30 17,106 16.8% 31-40 19,522 19.2% 41-50 17,889 17.6% 51-60 20,528 20.2% 61+ 26,557 26.1% Range Old Pct ====================== 18-30 351 0.6% 31-40 2,009 3.4% 41-50 5,279 8.9% 51-60 12,233 20.5% 61+ 39,766 66.7%
A majority of the new voters this year were 50 and under, with 36% being 40 and under. That’s not too shabby. As for the old reliables, here “old” is an appropriate word. If you told me the average age of this group was 69, I’d believe it. I will say, if the revised term limits ordinance stands, it’s going to be more challenging to talk about new and experienced voters in our every-four-years elections, simply because there will be so much turnover in the voting population. Under the new system – again, if it stands – the last three elections would be 2011, 2007, and 2003. Three elections from now would be 2027. Of course, with incumbents limited to two terms, maybe there will be that much more emphasis on the last election, and less on others except for open seats. Who knows? One way or another, we are headed into uncharted waters.
I hope you enjoyed this trip through the data. I may take a look at recent runoff rosters to see if there’s anything there worth writing about. Happy Thanksgiving!