Older voters concerned about future of Social Security, Medicare

Non-retired Baby Boomers are very anxious about the November presidential election because they are worried about the future of Social Security and Medicare, according to a new AARP survey.

Called the “Anxiety Index,” the report measures voters worries about issues including prices rising faster than incomes, health expenses, not having financial security in retirement and paying too much in taxes. By comparison, 32 percent 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, 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."

Most of the non-retired boomer voters surveyed said they are pessimistic about retirement, with 72 percent saying they would have to delay retirement and 65 percent saying they won’t have enough money to retire.

A full 50 percent of these voters don’t believe they will ever be able to retire and 59 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 voters 50-plus.  Sixty-nine percent of retired voters over age 50 worry about prices rising faster than their incomes, and almost half worry about having unaffordable health expenses, despite the relative security provided by Medicare.  Forty-two percent of African-American voters over age 50 are confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout their retirement.  Older Hispanic voters overwhelmingly say that the recent economic downturn negatively impacted their personal circumstances, which will force them to rely more on Social Security and Medicare.

Economic anxieties among voters 50-plus are leading to a general dissatisfaction with political leaders.  They are most likely to say their personal economic circumstances were negatively affected by political gridlock in Washington as by the economic downturn. Almost half of these voters disapprove of President Obama’s job performance and 81 percent disapprove of Congress.

As of now, older voters were evenly split in their presidential vote preference, with 45 percent voting for Obama and 45 percent for Mitt Romney. Ten percent said they weren’t sure.

According to AARP, Social Security and Medicare are major election issues. They believe that both parties should work together to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. These voters also don’t believe either presidential candidate has done a good job explaining their plans for the two social programs.

"The message from voters 50-plus is clear," said 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."

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