AARP survey: new ‘anxiety index’ reveals economic issues for Virginia voters 50 and older

In the coming November elections, a key group of Virginia voters – non-retired baby boomers ages 50 to 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 50 and older want the candidates to explain their plans for Social Security and Medicare, which will help them determine their votes.

50 and older voters’ financial outlook: dissatisfied and anxious

The particular pressures facing boomer voters in Virginia are reflected in a new “Anxiety Index,” which measures their worries on issues including prices rising faster than incomes (72 percent worry somewhat or very often about this), health expenses (58 percent), not having financial security in retirement (67 percent) and paying too much in taxes (66 percent). 

By comparison, 29 percent of these boomer voters regularly worry about being able to find a full-time job with benefits. Less than one-fifth of voters 50 and older regularly worry about keeping up with their mortgage or rent. These issues 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 in Virginia are pessimistic about retirement. More than two-thirds (67 percent) believe they will have to delay retirement and more than half (65 percent) worry they won’t have enough to retire. Of the boomers surveyed, 42 percent don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire. A solid majority (63 percent) 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 Virginia voters 50 and older. Two-thirds (66 percent) of voters 50 and older worry about prices rising faster than their incomes, and nearly half (49 percent) worry about having unaffordable health expenses, despite the relative security provided by Medicare. 

50 and older voters and the 2012 elections

Economic anxieties among Virginia voters 50 and older are leading to a general dissatisfaction with political leaders. Voters 50 and older are more likely to say that their personal economic circumstances were negatively affected by political gridlock in Washington (74 percent) as by the economic downturn (65 percent). Nearly half (46 percent) of these voters disapprove of President Obama’s job performance, and more than eight in 10 (83 percent) disapprove of Congress. As of now, Virginia voters 50 and older are nearly evenly divided in their presidential vote preference (45 percent for President Obama, 46 percent for Governor Romney, and 9 percent not sure), and they are similarly split when it comes to choosing their next U.S. Senator. The survey revealed that for Virginia 50 and older voters, the U.S. Senate race is up for grabs, with 14 percent unsure who they will choose to be Senator. Of those surveyed, 44 percent say they will vote for former Senator George Allen, the Republican candidate, and 42 percent say they favor former Governor Tim Kaine, a Democrat.

The concerns of Virginia 50 and older voters highlight the importance of Social Security and Medicare as election issues. They think the next president and Congress need to strengthen Social Security (92 percent) and Medicare (91 percent). They also overwhelmingly (92 percent) think that these issues are too big for either party to fix alone and require Republicans and Democrats to come together.

Voters 50 and older in Virginia 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 (68 percent) and Medicare (64 percent). Moving forward, a large majority of these voters – across party lines – says that getting more information on the candidates’ plans on Social Security (68 percent) and Medicare (67 percent) will help them determine their vote on Election Day.

“The message from voters 50 and older 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 Say, a national conversation to ensure that Americans have a say in the future of Social Security and Medicare. Through You’ve Earned 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. 

The following community conversations on Medicare and Social Security will be held in Virginia:

Aug. 14 (Social Security’s birthday) – Sterling

Sept. 19 – Newport News

Sept. 25 – Roanoke

The You’ve Earned a Say Tour will be in Herndon on September 9 at the Dulles Chapter Classic Car Show.

For more information on the events visit www.aarp.org/va.

For more information, please visit www.earnedasay.org. For complete results of AARP voter surveys, please visit www.aarp.org/voters50plus.

Methodology

AARP commissioned Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group to conduct a series of surveys of registered voters ages 18 and older, 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 and older, African American voters 50 and older and Hispanic voters 50 and older). The margin of error for the primary national sample of 1,001 is 3.1 percent, for the sample of 536 non-retired baby boomers it is 4.2 percent, and for the sample of 1,331 voters age 50 and over the margin of error is 2.7 percent. An oversample of 434 voters was conducted in Virginia with a margin of error of 4.7 percent. Additional oversample surveys were conducted in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.

About AARP

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million, that helps people 50 and older have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for Americans 50 and older and the world’s largest-circulation magazine; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for the 50 and older audience; AARP VIVA, a bilingual lifestyle multimedia platform addressing the interests and needs of Hispanic Americans; and national television and radio programming including My Generation and Inside E Street. The AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. AARP has staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Learn more at www.aarp.org.

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