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by Carole Fleck, AARP Bulletin, October 1, 2010
Most Americans plan to vote in the November midterm elections, but more than one in four say they may not cast a ballot because they don't trust any of the candidates, according to a new AARP Bulletin poll.
Adults age 50 and older are more likely to cast a ballot (80 percent) than younger people (54 percent), the poll found. Of those who don't plan to vote or aren't sure, 28 percent in all age groups cite a lack of trust for the candidates as the reason, while 38 percent say they're disgusted with politics. Those age 50-plus appear to be more fed up (44 percent) than younger people (36 percent).
Older people (22 percent) were more likely to say their vote doesn't matter, compared with people under age 50 (14 percent), the poll of 1,051 adults revealed. About one in five in all age groups says the forthcoming elections are not about their concerns or issues. Yet 68 percent of those surveyed say they're very or somewhat interested in the midterm elections; 31 percent are not.
In terms of what voters care about, a candidate's character mattered most for 40 percent of people age 50 and older, compared with 36 percent of younger voters. But 25 percent of older adults and 31 percent of their younger counterparts say they'll vote for a candidate based on his or her position on one or two particular issues, according to the poll. Fifteen percent of people age 50 and up and 11 percent of those under 50 say a candidate's voting record mattered most.
The nation's high unemployment seemed to be a major concern for just about everyone. Jobs were the top issue (90 percent) likely to influence how people would vote. Terrorism, along with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, was cited by 80 percent of older people and by 77 percent of those under 50 as the issues affecting how they'll vote, the poll found. Social Security was a top issue for 89 percent of those age 50-plus, and for 76 percent of younger adults.
"The economy is the key issue these days," says Mary Noone, 74, a retired office manager from Ho-Ho-Kus, N.J., who has been on her town's election board for the last five years. "I believe this midterm election is probably more important. There are a lot of big issues."
Typically, midterm elections are difficult for the party in power because it gets the blame for economic conditions and other problems.
According to a poll released Sept. 22 by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, 75 percent of Republicans say this year's elections are more important than most; 66 percent of Democrats concur.
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.
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