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Keywords:

  • generational politics;
  • older people;
  • electoral competition;
  • issue salience

Ageing societies and cohort-based differential turnout present challenges and opportunities in political parties' pursuit of electoral support. This article explores their response with reference to the issue salience of public policy for older people in the manifestos for Westminster and regional elections in the UK, 1945–2011. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of party programmes reveals: (1) a significant increase in issue salience and electoral competition around public policy for older people in the post-war era; (2) a continuing failure to adhere to EC and UN edicts on the need to mainstream older people's equality and welfare across portfolios and policy frames; and (3) the territorialisation of public policy based on inter- and intra-party differences in policy programmes as part of a formative process associated with the political opportunity structures afforded by quasi-federalism.