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AARP Poll: Voters 50-Plus Want Candidates Who Support Help for Caregivers 

Older voters also see threats to democracy, Social Security and Medicare as critical issues

spinner image four diverse people each with a thought bubble one says democracy one says medicare one says social security and the last reads caregiving
Getty Images/AARP

Voters 50-plus overwhelmingly are looking to elected officials to pay attention and help the tens of millions of family caregivers meet the challenges they face every day in caring for their loved ones, according to the results of a new AARP poll of likely voters in the 40 most competitive U.S. House of Representatives districts.

The survey also found that older voters are concerned about threats to America’s democracy, Social Security and Medicare, and pocketbook issues such as the economy, jobs and inflation.

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The AARP poll surveyed 1,752 likely 2024 general election voters in 40 U.S. House of Representatives districts considered to be among the most competitive in the country. A bipartisan team of pollsters — Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research — conducted the survey via landline, cellphone and online from July 5 to July 11. The team polled an oversample of 50-plus voters, bringing to 1,200 the number of older voters interviewed. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent.

Family caregivers a factor for 2024

The AARP survey shows that a strong majority of all likely voters and even more 50-plus voters either are family caregivers, have been a caregiver or expect to be a caregiver. AARP estimates that 53 million Americans are caregivers, and experts say these voters could become a real force in the 2024 election.

spinner image forty three percent of voters polled are current caregivers while thirty one percent are past caregivers and twenty three percent expect to be future caregivers

“A significant proportion of the electorate are, have been or will be family caregivers, and we know that these folks often feel overwhelmed and financially stressed,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “Listening to them, showing that you understand what they’re going through and supporting commonsense policies that can provide some relief would help candidates make real connections with these important voters.” 

More family caregivers say they plan to vote Republican (49 percent) than those who will support a Democrat (38 percent). But the survey also found that 50-plus voters say Democrats are more likely (44 percent) to help seniors live independently at home as they age than Republicans (38 percent). 

“This could be this election cycle’s sleeper issue,” says John Anzalone, a veteran Democratic pollster at Impact Research. “Just consider the size of the group who considers themselves caregivers. This is a powerful issue that people don’t really know about.”

Tony Fabrizio, longtime political strategist at Fabrizio Ward, agrees. He says caregivers are a group that up to now has not had a political identity and not been seen as a political force. AARP’s campaign to shine a light on this issue could change that, he says. AARP has been running television ads highlighting the need for older Americans to be able to live independently at home as they age. 

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AARP calls on federal and state lawmakers to provide eligible family caregivers financial relief to help cover some of their costs of caring for a loved one, including paid family leave and respite services, as well as expanded services to help seniors remain in their homes as they age.

“When you look at these voters politically, these voters say they are voting Republican,” Fabrizio says, “but if the Democrats can make a case and we do not protect our turf, these voters can make a difference in who is in the majority.”

Social Security and Medicare strong 50-plus concerns

Given a list of 12 hot-button issues, voters 50 and older rate threats to democracy as their top issue (16 percent), followed by Social Security and Medicare (11 percent), immigration and border security (11 percent), the economy and jobs (10 percent) and inflation (10 percent). 

spinner image the most important issues at sixteen percent of voters polled are threats to democracy while eleven percent said social security and medicare and eleven percent said immigration and border security

When asked what issue is most important to them just among AARP’s key concerns, 81 percent of 50-plus voters cite Social Security, 77 percent say Medicare, 70 percent pick policies to help seniors live independently at home as they age and 67 percent list the cost of prescription drugs.

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“Candidates and elected officials have a real opportunity to talk to older Americans and their families about their day-to-day challenges and kitchen table budget issues,” LeaMond says.

The survey shows that “issues like Social Security and Medicare, lowering prescription drug prices and caregiving issues are really important to voters, and especially seniors, and that they have an electoral impact,” Anzalone says. “And these are bipartisan issues that if Democrats or Republicans fight for, they will be rewarded.”

Worries about democracy

In recent years, older Americans have consistently told pollsters that they are worried about the divisions in the country. The new AARP survey found that 16 percent of all 50-plus voters are most worried about that issue, with 17 percent of likely voters ages 50 to 64 saying it’s their top issue. Among the 65-plus, threats to democracy tie with Social Security and Medicare as their top concern.

Here are the top issues voters were asked about in the new AARP poll:

  • Inflation and rising prices
  • Threats to democracy
  • Economy and jobs
  • Taxes, government spending and debt
  • Immigration and border security
  • Gun control/gun rights
  • Abortion
  • Social Security and Medicare
  • Environment and climate change
  • Health care
  • Law and order and crime
  • Woke ideology

What the poll does not make clear is what specific threats to democracy voters care about. “It could mean different things to different people,” Fabrizio says. “To Democrats, threats to democracy could mean Jan. 6 [the attack Jan. 6, 2021, on the Capitol], and to Republicans, it could mean their attitudes about election integrity.”

Anzalone says voters could be thinking about former President Donald Trump in selecting threats to democracy as their top issue. “There’s a universe who believes that he is a threat to democracy and a universe that believes that he is the savior of democracy,” Anzalone says.

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