All the political blather about jobs is fine but a key group of voters -- employed baby boomers -- say they want the candidates to better explain their plans for Social Security and Medicare, which will help them determine their votes.
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%).
Dissatisfied with "leaders"
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.
“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.”