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In Choosing a President, What Issues Matter Most to Older Voters?

Bulletin poll offers comparisons to 2008 campaign

En español | As in 2008, security weighs heavily on the minds of older voters. But in this presidential campaign, it's more financial security, less homeland security.

See also: Older Americans depend on Social Security.

In 2008 and 2012, the AARP Bulletin surveyed voters 50 and older to see which issues might affect their choice for president. 

Among those rated "very important," job growth and rising health costs top this year's list, at 83 percent. The same issues came in at 66 percent and 79 percent, respectively, in 2008, when the national unemployment rate was 4.8 percent and the Great Recession loomed on the horizon.

Some 78 percent of older voters now see the national deficit as a very important issue (up from 69 percent in 2008), and 59 percent put the mortgage/credit crisis in the same category (up from 48 percent in 2008).

There appears to be less concern about threats from outside U.S. borders.

The issues of terrorism, immigration and America's image abroad fell from 74, 63 and 48 percent in 2008 to 65, 48 and 36 percent. And the war in Iraq? Seventy-nine percent rated it very important in 2008. With American troops out of Iraq, it wasn't offered as an issue this time around.

"Very Important" Issues in the Presidential Election

Issue 2012 2008
Job growth
Rising health costs
*Social Security and Medicare
Government competence 81 82
National deficit 78 69
Education 74 76
**Ethics 73 49
High prescription drug costs 66 70
Terrorism 65 74
Inflation 65 64
Increasing energy costs 63 69
Washington gridlock 61 45
Mortgage/credit crisis 59 48
Immigration 48 63
Personal debt 47 44
Trade and globalization 41 46
U.S. image abroad 36 48
Climate change/global warming 30 44

*Listed as "Social Security" in 2008.

** Listed as "Political ethics scandals" in 2008.

The 2012 results were taken from a survey of 1,001 adults age 18 and older conducted Jan. 17-21 by Woelfel Research.

The 2008 results were taken from a survey of 1,414 likely voters age 18 and older conducted Feb. 1-7 by Woelfel Research Inc.

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