AARP Survey: Needs on Key Issues Trump Partisan Divisions for Voters Age 50+

WASHINGTON–(ENEWSPF)–October 14, 2010.  A new survey released yesterday by AARP offers a closer look at the attitudes and priorities of AARP members heading into the 2010 midterm elections – and challenges some of the conventional wisdom about what will drive their votes.

“No one should be surprised that a political environment that has become increasingly more combative over the last few elections would yield some predictable partisan divisions among voters,” said AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond.  “The real story here is that at a time of growing partisanship, older Americans across the ideological spectrum share many of the same concerns on key issues and are demanding common-sense solutions from their elected leaders.

The survey of AARP members who are likely voters is part of the Association’s voter education efforts, which include state and federal voter guides featuring candidates’ positions, in their own words, on key issues for older Americans (available at

“We’re trying to cut through the campaign clutter so that our members and all older Americans can find out where their candidates stand on key issues so they can determine if their candidates share their values and views,” added LeaMond.  “Older voters are critically important in midterm elections, so any candidate running to keep their job or win a new one would do well to heed what they have to say.”

Agreement Across Partisan Differences

While the 2010 election cycle reflects years of increasingly divisive partisan rhetoric, AARP members share their support for solutions on key issues – and will make their votes accordingly.

Social Security:  Almost all AARP members (95%) say it’s important that a candidate pledge to protect Social Security as a guaranteed, life-long benefit, with similar support among Republicans (94%), Democrats (98%) and ticket-splitters (95%).

AARP members are nearly unanimous (97%) in expressing the importance of Social Security for future generations.  Two-thirds (67%) of AARP members agree with a candidate who says that Social Security is essential for seniors and cutting benefits of future retirees will place an unfair burden on them.  Six in ten (60%) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports cutting Social Security benefits to reduce the deficit, including two-thirds of Democrats (66%), more than half (51%) of Republicans and (61%) of ticket-splitters.

“There is no doubt that older Americans of all political stripes continue to strongly support Social Security and want to protect it for both themselves and future generations,” said LeaMond.

Medicare and Doctors:  The overwhelming majority of AARP members in Medicare (81%) and those younger members not yet eligible for Medicare (86%) are concerned about the impact of a looming 23% physician pay cut on their access to a doctor.  Republicans are more likely than Democrats (67% – 53%) to vote for a candidate who promises to fix the system and prevent future doctor pay cuts.

“The most important person in the lives of many of our members is their grandkid,” said LeaMond.  “Next on that list is their doctor.  Americans age 50+ want this problem fixed, and they expect their leaders to act accordingly.”

Medicare Fraud:  Almost three-in-four (72%) AARP members say that Medicare fraud is a major problem, and 70% say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports specific legislative measures to prevent and crack down on fraud – this sentiment is true across party lines (73% Republicans, 68% Democrats, 72% ticket-splitters).

“Medicare fraud is literally a national health hazard, taking needed resources away from care that helps people get and stay healthy,” added LeaMond.  “We all have a role to play in cracking down and preventing fraud, and our members are looking for Congress to build on recent progress and lead the way.”

Concern for Future Generations

Despite the impact of the recent economic recession on individual retirement savings and access to health care, and the lingering troubles in the job market, AARP members are focused on key issues that impact the country overall and, in particular, future generations.

“Many of our members who have weathered a brutal economic storm are relieved just to keep their heads above water, but they want to make it better for future generations and will use their votes to help make that a reality” said LeaMond.  “Their concerns about the economy, the deficit, and the future of Social Security and Medicare are about providing opportunities to and protecting key lifelines for them, their kids and grandkids.”

More than four-in-five (82%) are dissatisfied with the current state of the national economy and 91% are concerned about the deficit.  While seven-in-ten AARP members say they are satisfied with their own personal economic situation, two-out-of-three (66%) are not confident that life for their children’s generation will be better than it was for them.

For example, the majority of AARP members (51%) say the most important reason to crack down on Medicare fraud is to keep the program strong, which is three times greater than those citing the need to save consumers money (17%) and almost four times greater than protecting seniors’ health (13%).

Differences Remain

Despite overwhelming agreement on key needs for older Americans, partisan differences remain.

While AARP members generally share negative opinions about the nation’s current economic situation and future prospects, Democrats are generally more optimistic than Republicans.

More than six-in-ten (61%) AARP members think the country is going on the wrong track, with sharp differences of opinion between Republicans (94%) and Democrats (31%).  Democrats are almost four times as likely as Republicans to say the economy will get better in the next year (60% – 16%).

Only one-in-four (26%) of AARP members think their children’s generation will be better than it was for them, Democrats (42% confident) are more optimistic than Republicans (8% confident).


AARP commissioned American Viewpoint, Inc. to conduct a series of surveys in consultation with Hart Research Associates.  Blinded telephone interviews were conducted with 1,000 AARP members who are likely voters in the 2010 federal elections, from September 9-13.  The margin of error for this survey is ±3.1%.

For more information, visit