What 2020 Candidates Should Know About Older Voters
What Older Voters 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, forced out of work by the recession. However, for older Americans, despair won’t keep them from voting. 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 are much more attuned to retirement insecurity than men. 63% of older women are insecure about their retirement income, compared to 52% of older men.
Past trends show older voters drift toward the national candidate with a commitment to strengthening Social Security and Medicare. This tendency, coupled with the unique difficulties the COVID-19 recession has caused older workers, lead me to believe this pull toward the ‘Social Security/Medicare’ candidate for older workers will persist in the coming election.
Pay special attention to policies about Social Security. The program has become more important than ever to voters. In April 2019, 83% of Gallup poll respondents said they were confident Social Security would be a major source of income in retirement. After the recession started and COVID-19 spread, that number climbed to 88%. The Democrats may have an advantage here. They propose expanding the program, while Republicans advocate for cutting benefits and no additional revenue for the program.
As older Americans increasingly fear losing their jobs and health care, Biden’s call 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 who buy their own insurance, would likely find Medicare a good source of coverage at a potentially lower cost. Also, making Medicare first payer — and employer plans the supplement — 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 also because there are more of them. In 2018, near retirees aged 45-64 were the largest segment of the voter population — with a 38% share of the votes. Voters over 65 had the next highest share, at 27%. That means voters over the age of 45 make up 65% of all voters. In contrast, the share of voters between the ages of 18 and 28 is 7%
Additionally, older citizens are 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, even if for complex reasons, is vital to a candidate.
After all, older voters helped elect Trump in 2016. Voters aged 45 and older favored Trump over Clinton by 8 points, 52-44. Whereas younger voters, aged 44 and below, favored Clinton by 14 points, 53-39.
But the shift of older workers from Democrats to Republicans is recent and stem from fears about their health care. The older voter started to drift to the right in 2010, when they thought “Obamacare” (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [ACA]) would hurt Medicare. Only 39% of voters aged 65 and up 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 the 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, and Arizona, is 30%. The share of voters over age 65 in the rest of the United States is 27%.
What Determines Older Voter Turnout Indicates 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 that, will focus campaigning on Social Security and Medicare.
· Older voters vote more than their younger counterparts. Voter turnout for those over the age of 65 is 66%, compared to 34% for those aged 18-34.
· Voters over the age of 65 make up 27% of all potential voters, versus just 7% for those between ages 18 to 28.
· Lowering the Medicare age and protecting Social Security may be top issues in elections for federal office.