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Bob Edwards, Ben Brown discuss voter participation in the midterms

Brown, founder of the Association of Young Americans, talks about a recent poll by AARP and AYA

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Bob Edwards

Hello, I'm Bob Edwards with an AARP take on today. Though America may be deeply divided politically, there is one thing most voters regardless of age, are seeking, elected officials they can trust. According to a poll by AARP and the Association of Young Americans or AYA, 86 percent said honesty in government is very important to the future of our country. Almost two thirds said the country is headed in the wrong direction and are fearful about the future of democracy in America. When asked to rank the importance of 18 different issues facing the country, the number one issue selected by each of the three generations was the same, honesty in government. It even ranked ahead of jobs, healthcare, and access to education.

Bob Edwards

The poll is a Three Generation Survey that included millennials, Gen Xers and boomers. The national survey of 4,862 adults representing three generations comes just weeks before the pivotal midterm elections when control of Congress and governorships in three dozen states are up for grabs. The three generations shared the perspective that the country is headed in the wrong direction. While only a little more than one third, believe the country is headed on the right track. Another thing appears clear, people are motivated to vote in November. Seventy percent said they were likely to vote this year, including 83 percent of boomers, 70 percent of Gen Xers and 55 percent of millennials. Joining me today is Ben Brown, founder of AYA to discuss the poll findings and how many voters, regardless of generations, share strong opinions about the future of our country. Welcome Ben.

Ben Brown

Thank you so much for having me.

Bob Edwards

Tell me why you founded AYA?

Ben Brown

Association of Young Americans is a membership organization working to give young people a seat at the table, much like AARP works, to give older Americans a seat at the table and represent them. Several years ago I read an article that was kind of a laundry list of issues facing young people and at the end of the article, the author relayed an anecdote from when he was in his twenties interviewing then Senator Alan Simpson and he said, "Senator Simpson, how can we solve all of these issues facing young people?" And the senator said, "Nothing will happen until you can walk into my office and say, I'm with the American Association of young people." We have 30 million members and we're watching you and a light bulb went off in my head. AARP does such amazing work for older Americans representing their interests, providing consistent value. What would the world look like if young people had their own lobbyists, if young people had their own organization working for them every single day and so I started AYA.

Bob Edwards

How did you pull that off? A lot of us old timers would probably figure young people are unorganizable.

Ben Brown

Unorganizable. I think that in the last maybe 10 years, a couple of things have happened that make an organization like association of young Americans possible. The first is technology. Everyone has a computer in their pockets and is connected almost all the time. The other is a policy platform that young people can get behind and a vision for America that most young people agree with and a couple of issues that are urgent and need attention.

Bob Edwards

Well, let's imagine, and this is a stretch that I'm a millennial. Why should I join AYA?

Ben Brown

Association of Young Americans is an organization working to give young people a seat at the table. By joining AYA you are joining tens of thousands of other young Americans united in their vision, to have a seat at the table, to be represented every day in politics and to get discounts on products and services that you know in love.

Bob Edwards

So, what do you hope AYA would accomplish?

Ben Brown

We focus on a few core issues. The first and probably most of our work these days is focused on higher education and we focus on a few core issues, but these days we really prioritize our work on student debt crisis and the cost of higher education, which as you can imagine, is a huge issue for young people across the board.

Bob Edwards

What surprised you the most in this poll?

Ben Brown

The Three Generation Survey from AARP and Association of Young Americans covered a whole host of different issues, but what really stood out to me actually was the impact of student debt, not just on millennials, but on Gen Xers and baby boomers. The student debt crisis is now at about $1.5 trillion that affects 44 million Americans and while it's so often considered just a young people issue, the survey really showed us that it is affecting all generations, impacting their ability to save, to buy homes, to plan for the future, and make key life decisions.

Bob Edwards

What issues are at stake for younger voters besides student debt?

Ben Brown

Yeah. You know, one thing that I think young voters are really concerned about as many voters are, is honesty in government and I think and a genuine connection between a politician and young people. And I think young people are really looking for politicians that are trustworthy, but also are prioritizing and thinking about the issues that young people think about on a long-term basis. Someone who is born today has a 50 percent chance of living to 100.

Bob Edwards

50 percent?

Ben Brown

50 percent chance of living to 100.

Bob Edwards

Are you kidding me? Wow.!

Ben Brown

The magic of modern medicine. A 25 year old isn't necessarily thinking about what is best for them tomorrow, although they might be, but they're also really thinking about what is the world going to look like in 40 years.

Bob Edwards

Better think about elder care already.

Ben Brown

Yeah, exactly and that long-term horizon coupled with kind of the short-term gain mentality is I think where a lot of young people are looking in and young people are willing to tackle some of these really big issues that are going to take awhile to solve but need to be solved.

Bob Edwards

We're so focused on the political divide in the country, red vs blue, us versus them, but this poll tells a different story.

Ben Brown

It really does. We have more similarities, especially inter-generationally than we often consider. When we talk about millennials and Gen Xers and baby boomers, we often really isolate those groups. But the fact of the matter is we share quite a bit of values and our vision for the future isn't totally different. A lot of the issues, different generations are facing, are the same.

Bob Edwards

Indeed, many young people take it as an article of faith that social security will not be there for them. What is AYA doing to correct that misconception and also to ensure that it will be there for you?

Ben Brown

Well, I really hope it will be there because ...

Bob Edwards

You're paying into it.

Ben Brown

I'm paying into it every month. So I hope I get to see that that money someday. This is a great example of a long-term institution that we need to start thinking about now and figuring out how it's going to be there in full capacity for me and my generation as we've already paid into it.

Bob Edwards

The poll found 55 percent of millennials are very likely to vote in this year's election. That's a very high figure. Most young people don't vote until they have children in school or mortgages or the like. Is this a positive indicator as far as midterm elections come?

Ben Brown

The survey showed 55 percent of millennials are very likely to vote, which is astronomical compared to previous midterm elections. In 2014 midterm elections, 23 percent of millennials voted, so this would be a 140 percent increase over 2014 midterm elections. Time will tell if that is actually the case, but it is an amazing indicator that young people are really engaged and are stepping up to vote and to claim their future.

Bob Edwards

Well, what pressed the accelerator here? What's motivating for these younger people to want to turn out in these numbers?

Ben Brown

I think the high voter engagement amongst young people is because of kind of a perfect storm of issues that they see. Young people see an administration that hasn't necessarily prioritized the issues they care about and in many respects has deprioritized those issues. There is more money and organizations and focus than ever before on making sure that young people know about the issues and are registered and engaged to vote. And the entertainment news and the political news has combined.

Bob Edwards

You think?

Ben Brown

And so you can't really not hear about what's happening in politics and you and it's become much easier for a lack of a better word to know what's happening and I think that education of issues is making people realize that that voting is extremely important.

Bob Edwards

So what are you at AYA doing to build on this momentum?

Ben Brown

Association of Young Americans is trying to register every young person to vote that we can. That being said, one of the more disappointing things of the election cycles is while so much energy and attention goes into registering young people to vote and making sure that they vote, which is extremely important and should never stop, the day after the election oftentimes that energy, that money, that focus disappears until the next election. And that's really where our Association of young Americans comes in. The day after the election, that is when it becomes imperative to hold those legislators we voted for accountable. Make sure they understand what they said they were going to do and make sure that they do that.

Bob Edwards

So you got to keep the gang together.

Ben Brown

Keep the gang together and keep the pressure on.

Bob Edwards

You teamed up with AARP on this survey. What else does your research show?

Ben Brown

The Three Generation Survey between AARP and Association of Young Americans covered a whole host of different issues from personal finance to a voter engagement. One of the more surprising pieces of information that we learned was the effects of student debt across generations and we continue to hear good news about the economy on a macro level. The economy is doing well. It's growing. But when you zoom in a little bit into people's personal finances, the picture isn't quite as rosy. For example, 50 percent of respondents said they couldn't last three months if they lost their current income. So when you look at emergency savings, retirement savings, people's ability to make key life decisions, buy homes, the picture is a little bit more complicated.

Bob Edwards

I'm encouraged that you saw common cause with AARP. What got into you? Why did you team up with the old timers?

Ben Brown

AARP as an organization, what was the inspiration for Association of Young Americans looking at what AARP has done for people over 50 and trying to adapt that and make it work for 18 to 35 year olds. And so working with AARP on this survey was really important because a lot of the problems that young people are facing are not going to be solved without people over 50 at the table and vice versa.

Bob Edwards

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Ben Brown

I think so.

Bob Edwards

Ben Brown, founder of the Association of Young Americans. You can learn more about AYA by visiting joinaya.com. To learn more about AARP's voter engagement campaign Be the Difference Vote visit aarp.org/vote. Well done.

Bob Edwards

Here's what else you need to know this week. With the election day fast approaching, finding trustworthy, accessible sources of information is critical to make an informed voting decision. Now, it's as easy as turning to your smart speaker with more than 50 million people across the US using smart speakers like Amazon's Alexa and Google home AARP launched the nation's first smart speaker app designed to help Americans use their smart speakers to engage on a range of advocacy issues and to find voting information. It's called Raise your Voice. You can also command the app to provide information on five AARP issue areas and receive detailed information via text message. To invoke the app the user simply says, the smart speakers wake command followed by open Raise your Voice. Learn more and watch a demonstration at aarp.org/raiseyourvoice.

Bob Edwards

This week, Medicare kicked off it's open enrollment period, when people who are already enrolled in Medicare can make changes to their current Medicare insurance plans. The enrollment period is from October 15th through December 7th. A few things to keep in mind if you are a Medicare beneficiary, carefully read the annual notice of change which arrives by mail from your Medicare plan, insurer, and review any changes to the current plans, costs, and coverage. Review your plan options each year and choose the plan that best fits your current health situation and prescription medication needs. With the explosive rise in prescription drug prices pay particular attention to your drug coverage options and compare plans to help save money.

Bob Edwards

More information and tips are available at AARP's Medicare resource center at aarpp.org/Medicare. For more, visit aarp.org/podcast. Become a subscriber and be sure to rate our podcast on Itunes, stitcher, and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening. I'm Bob Edwards.

Bob Edwards chats with Ben Brown about a recent poll by AARP and AYA that looks at the issues that matter most to Millennials, Gen Xers, and Boomers, and why all three generations agree the top issue facing the country is “honesty in government.”

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