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grey vote

noun [uncountable]

older people, especially people over 55, considered as a group of potential voters in an election

grey voter

noun [countable]

'With research predicting that four out of 10 potential voters will be over 55, the so-called grey vote could be key to winning the election on 6 May.'

BBC News 16th April 2010

'The grey voters – those over 55 – are seen as key to the next election and the recently widowed pensioner, a gran of three, is keen to chat … about pensions and NHS waste. She says: "I've done voting over issues like education and childcare."'

The Sun 6th April 2010

Time for change? Thursday 6th May will see millions of Brits popping into polling stations the length and breadth of the UK to vote in the 2010 general election. In the period leading up to the big day, politicians from the three major parties have been slugging out to convince us that – yes, they, and not the other guys, should be the ones to form the next British government. Political analysts meanwhile are currently suggesting that the success or failure of their respective bids may rest largely in the hands of the grey vote.

research suggests that almost half the potential seats could be affected by decisions made by older voters, giving the grey vote a more significant impact on the outcome of the election than ever before

The expression grey vote functions as a collective term for members of the electorate at either pensionable age or in the latter years of their working life. These folks are correspondingly dubbed grey voters, and it seems they may have a particular influence in 2010, with analysts predicting that they'll account for a massive 40 per cent of the vote.

With a larger than ever proportion of the voting public at pensionable age, politicians are being forced to pay attention to the issues which most concern older voters, such as care for the elderly, pensions and the NHS (National Health Service). Research suggests that almost half the potential seats could be affected by decisions made by older voters, giving the grey vote a more significant impact on the outcome of the election than ever before.

Background – grey vote

The terms grey vote and grey voter have been around since the early noughties, also popping up in the last UK general election of 2005. Contrary to the ephemeral nature of many words and expressions surrounding election campaigns, grey vote has also made it into printed record, appearing in the 2003 edition of the Collins English Dictionary.

The expression follows an established tradition of characterizing particular groups of the electorate according to factors such as age, gender and position in society, particularly if these groups represent swing/floating voters, voters who change their voting habits with each election and so have a significant influence on the outcome. Contemporary examples include motorway man, described as a young, childless, aspirational male professional who lives in a modern home close to a motorway, and Holby City woman, a female in her 30s or 40s employed in the public sector (Holby City is a fictional television drama about a UK hospital). Predecessors in the election campaigns of the eighties and nineties included Essex man, an unsophisticated, working-class male with a materialistic desire for luxury goods, and Worcester woman, the female centrepiece of hard-working, middle-income families.

Across the Atlantic, there are similar examples spanning the last few presidential campaigns – notably soccer mom, a term which emerged in 1996 to refer to a white suburban woman who is married with children (from the idea of the ever-supportive Mum who regularly stands on the edge of the pitch at soccer matches). By 2004, soccer mom had become security mom, the white married mother who was disproportionately worried about the threat of terrorism.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

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This article was first published on 27th April 2010.

Open Dictionary

Dunning-Kruger effect

the phenomenon by which an incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence

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