In the coming November 2012 elections, a key group of voters – non-retired baby boomers ages 50-64 – are driven by economic anxieties that extend well beyond the single issue of jobs, according to the results of a new series of surveys by AARP. All voters age 50+ want the candidates to better explain their plans for Social Security and Medicare, which will help them determine their votes.
50+ Voters' Financial Outlook: Dissatisfied and Anxious
The particular pressures facing boomer voters – across party lines – are reflected in a new "Anxiety Index," which measures their worries on issues including prices rising faster than incomes (75% worry somewhat or very often about this), health expenses (62%), not having financial security in retirement (73%) and paying too much in taxes (71%). By comparison, 32% of these boomer voters regularly worry about being able to find a full-time job with benefits or keep up with their mortgage or rent (30%), issues that are more widely discussed as leading economic issues for voters in the coming election.
"We know the issue of jobs is very important to voters age 50-plus, but any meaningful discussion of the economy and this year's election has to include the future of Social Security and Medicare," said Nancy LeaMond, AARP Executive Vice President. "For these voters, 'retirement security' and 'economic security' are largely the same thing."
Non-retired boomer voters are pessimistic about retirement. Almost three-in-four (72%) believe they will have to delay retirement, and almost two-in-three (65%) worry they won't have enough to retire. Half of these voters (50%) don't think they'll ever be able to retire. They overwhelmingly (59%) believe the recent economic downturn will force them to rely more on Social Security and Medicare.
Anxiety about retirement security is a main driver for all voters 50+. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) of retired voters 50+ worry about prices rising faster than their incomes, and almost half (48%) worry about having unaffordable health expenses, despite the relative security provided by Medicare. Only four-in-ten (42%) African-American voters 50+ are confident that they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement. Hispanic voters 50+ overwhelmingly say that the recent economic downturn negatively impacted their personal circumstances (84%) and will force them to rely more on Social Security and Medicare (69%).
50+ Voters and the 2012 Elections
Economic anxieties among voters 50+ are leading to a general dissatisfaction with political leaders. Voters 50+ are as likely to say that their personal economic circumstances were negatively affected by political gridlock in Washington (78%) as by the economic downturn (77%). Almost half (49%) of these voters disapprove of President Obama's job performance, and more than eight-in-ten (81%) disapprove of Congress. As of now, voters 50+ evenly are split in their presidential vote preference (45% for President Obama, 45% for Governor Romney, and 10% not sure).
The concerns of 50+ voters highlight the importance of Social Security and Medicare as election issues. They think the next president and Congress need to strengthen Social Security (91%) and Medicare (88%). They also overwhelmingly (91%) think that these issues are too big for either party to fix alone and require Republicans and Democrats to come together.
Voters 50+ are looking to the candidates for more information on these key issues. These voters overwhelmingly think the candidates have not done a good job of explaining their plans on Social Security (67%) and Medicare (63%). Moving forward, these voters – across party lines – say that getting more information on the candidates' plans on Social Security (72%) and Medicare (70%) will help them determine their vote on election day.
"The message from voters 50+ is clear," added LeaMond. "In a razor-tight election, candidates have a major opportunity to reach key voters by speaking about their plans on Social Security and Medicare – and they are making a huge gamble if they ignore them."
Earlier this year, AARP launched You've Earned a Say, a national conversation to ensure that Americans have a say in the future of Social Security and Medicare. Through You've Earned a Say, AARP is taking the discussion about the future of Medicare and Social Security out from behind closed doors in Washington. To date, more than 2.1 million Americans have engaged with You've Earned a Say to share their thoughts about how best to protect and strengthen health and retirement security for today's seniors and future generations.
AARP commissioned Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group to conduct a series of surveys of registered voters ages 18+, which were conducted by telephone July 10-16, 2012. For the national survey, blinded telephone interviews were conducted with 1,852 registered voters (core sample of 1,001, plus oversamples of voters 50+, African American voters 50+ and Hispanic voters 50+). The margin of error for the primary national sample of 1,001 is +/-3.1%, for the sample of 536 non-retired baby boomers it is +/-4.2%, and for the sample of 1,331 voters age 50 and over the margin of error is +/- 2.7%. Additional oversample surveys were conducted in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.