What Older Voters Want Might Want To Hear From Candidates In 2020
Older Americans jobs are becoming more precarious in the COVID-19 recession. Most of those retiring are doing so unwillingly, they are forced out of work by the recession. However, older Americans down and out will not be so depressed they won’t vote. Older voters will likely be excited about a candidate dedicated to help fix their economic insecurity.
An August 2020 poll of Americans between the ages of 50 and 75 with a net household income of at least $100,000 by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and the Alliance for Lifetime Income found a great deal of concern about retirement security. Nearly two-thirds of respondents have reported an erosion in their retirement investments probably because of job insecurity. Older woman much more attuned to retirement insecurity than men — 63% of older women insecure about their retirement income (compared with 52% of older men)
I predict older voters will drift towards the national candidate who shows commitment to strengthen Social Security and Medicare for reasons peculiar to the COVID-19 recession and because of past trends.
Pay special attention to policies about Social Security. The program has become more important than ever to voters. In April 2019 83% of those responding to a Gallup poll said they were confident that Social Security would be a major source of income in retirement. After the recession started and COVID-19 spread, confidence in Social Security increased to 88% of respondents saying Social Security will be a major source of income in retirement. The Democrats may have an advantage here, they propose expanding the program, Republicans imply they want to cut benefits and not raise more revenue for the program.
And as older Americans increasingly fear losing their jobs and their health care proposals to lower the Medicare Age to age 60 should be more popular. There is plenty of evidence, notably a recent paper by Marilyn Moon and Cori Uccello, that bringing younger people into Medicare won’t hurt the program and people aged 60 to 64 years who now buy insurance on their own would likely find Medicare a good source of coverage, potentially at a lower cost. Also making Medicare first payer and the employer health insurance plan the supplemental plan could make employing older people cheaper for employers.
Older Voters Matter
Older voters are more important than ever before, not just because older voters vote more, but because there are more of them. Near retirees, age 45-64, with a 38% share, were the largest segment of the voter population in 2018. Voters over age 65 had the next highest share at 27%. That means voters over age 45 are 65% of all voters. In contrast, the share voters between the ages of 18 to 28 is 7%
Older citizens are also more likely to vote than any other age group. Voter turnout for people over age 65 is 66%. Voter turnout for those 18-34 is just 34%. The differences in voting behavior is complex and involves a lot more than just age, but the stark fact that elders vote almost twice as much as younger people, for complex reasons, is vital to a candidate.
Older voters helped elect Trump in 2016. Voters aged 45 and older favored Trump over Hillary Clinton by 8 points, 52-44, whereas voters younger than 45 favored Clinton by 14 points, 53-39.
But the shift of older workers away from Democrats to Republicans is recent and hinged on feelings of security about health care. The older voter started to drift in 2010 when they thought that Obama Care (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)) would hurt Medicare. Only 39% of voters 65 and older favored Democrats in the 2010 House elections, in contrast to 55% of voters aged 18 to 29. The 2012 elections saw the same split among old and young. Democrats were losing the elderly vote.
Older Voters Matter Even More In Swing States
In Florida, probably the most important state in the presidential race the share of voters who are over 65 is one of the highest in the country at 33%. In fact, the voters in the swing states are older than the average in the United States. The share of voters over 65 in Florida, Pennsylvania, Arizona, is 30%. The share of voters over age 65 in the rest of the United States is 27%.
What Determines Older Voter Turnout Determines Their Worries
The master voting files from the U.S. Census Department help identify the characteristics of states with the highest older voter turnout. It is clear that states with high labor force participation among the elderly and higher levels of workplace retirement coverage (all correlated with more education among the elderly) were much more likely to vote. This means job insecurity and the health insurance and income insecurity that go along with it will focus campaigning on Social Security and Medicare.
· Older voters vote more than the young. Voter turnout for those over age 65 is 66%, for those 18-34, 34%.
· Voters over age 65 are 27% of all voters, those between ages 18 to 28 are just 7%.
· Lower Medicare age and secure Social Security may be top issues in elections for federal office.