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Exclusive AARP Poll: Women 50-Plus Are the Wild Card in 2024 Elections

Politically split, these voters worry about the economy, retirement security and our democracy

spinner image a group of diverse women all over age fifty surrounded by political concerns the white house the capitol money retirement savings the border and democracy
AARP (photos: Getty Images)

They vote in big numbers. They are invested in the nation’s future and worried about a wide range of issues — from the cost of living to immigration to the state of our democracy to their ability to retire. They are women 50 and older, and they could be the biggest wild card in this fall’s elections, according to an AARP public opinion poll.

AARP’s latest “She’s the Difference” survey echoes past findings that older women pay close attention to upcoming elections and that their votes could make the difference in who occupies the White House over the next four years and which political party controls Congress.

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“Three factors make women aged 50 and up a particularly critical voting group in this election,” says Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “First, they are a big group — close to 62 million across the country. Second, they turn out to vote. Older women cast one-third of ballots in 2022 while accounting for just over a quarter of the voting-age population. And third, they are evenly divided by party and ideologically fall more in the center than their male counterparts. This makes them a key swing voting bloc that can decide elections.”

The AARP survey was conducted by national pollsters Kristen Soltis Anderson, a GOP strategist, and Margie Omero, a Democratic consultant. They say the wide range of views among 50-plus women make them a clear wild card when it comes to whom they decide to vote for.

spinner image women aged fifty plus are split on the twenty twenty four election for president forty six percent are for joe biden and forty three percent are for donald trump for congress it is an even split of forty five percent between republicans and democrats
AARP (photos: Getty Images)

Election races deadlocked

If the election were held now, 46 percent of poll respondents said they would vote in a head-to-head matchup to reelect President Joe Biden, and 43 percent would cast their ballot for former President Donald Trump. From Jan. 10 to 21, the online survey polled 2,001 likely women voters 50 and older and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. 

The survey also showed a dead heat for control of Congress. In a generic congressional ballot, Republicans and Democrats tied at 45 percent. Republicans have a narrow majority in the U.S. House of Representatives while Democrats have slim control in the Senate.

The virtual split in views shows that “there are a lot of women who feel frustrated with the choices available to them,” Soltis Anderson says. “There are a lot of concerns about what the election will mean for our country. We’re seeing a very closely divided contest where voters of all kinds, particularly women 50-plus, aren’t really sure who’s got the answers to the problems we’re facing.”

For Omero, the results indicate “how important it is for anyone who wants to represent this group to really listen and take care to engage these voters.” The survey found that 65 percent of women voters 50-plus said they believe local elected officials don’t listen to the views of people like them and 75 percent feel that way about political leaders in Washington.

Though older women may be among those who wait almost until Election Day to decide whom to vote for, Soltis Anderson says, the survey makes clear that “these are women who are tuned in. They are already paying attention to what the candidates have to say, and they’re trying to sort out what that might mean for their votes in November.” 

spinner image three top Issues most important to women aged fifty plus are cost of living at thirty eight percent immigration at thirty two percent and threats to democracy at twenty percent
AARP (photos: Getty Images)

Cost of living is chief concern

Asked to identify the biggest issue facing America, 38 percent of respondents cited the cost of living, 32 percent said immigration and 20 percent said threats to democracy. 

Despite economic indicators such as declining inflation and recent record highs in the stock market, only 28 percent of women surveyed said they expect the economy to improve over the next year, while 42 percent said they expect it to get worse. More than half (51 percent) said they are not confident they will be better off financially in the coming year.

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“I think what we’re seeing is more of a lag” between what the economic data shows and how people see their own financial situation, Omero says. “It’s really going to take a while for people to feel that their personal economic situation has stabilized and feel that the time of high inflation is more in the rearview mirror.”

Soltis Anderson says the results show a continuing skepticism about the economy among older women. “I think people still believe that we are in a very unstable world and that even if things might, in the short run, seem like they are getting a little bit better, there’s not a lot of confidence that that will stick,” she says.

spinner image Women ages fifty plus fear for the country’s future seventy percent say our country is on the wrong track forty seven percent say america's best days are behind us but twenty seven percent say they are ahead of us
AARP (photos: Getty Images)

Women 50-plus pessimistic about country’s future

Women 50-plus are very worried about where the country is headed. A large majority (70 percent) told pollsters they believe the country is on the wrong track. Nearly half (47 percent) said America’s best days are behind it; only 27 percent said the nation’s best days are ahead

“We found that a lot of our respondents feel like things are unstable and they’re concerned about the future,” Soltis Anderson says. “They feel things are unraveling a little bit and there’s no clear path forward.” Their closely divided views on who should lead the country show that the majority of 50-plus women don’t blame a single political party for the country being on the wrong track, she adds.

AARP’s LeaMond says the survey shows that women “don’t believe that elected officials are listening to people like them. They are worried about their financial security and political division in the country. And many are stretched thin caring for loved ones. They want policymakers and political candidates to pay more attention to their day-to-day needs and take action.” 

For example, she says, “an overwhelming 84 percent of women voters 50-plus agree that elected officials should do more to support unpaid family caregivers.”

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To Omero, the wrong-track response is an outgrowth of how divided the American public is.

“This is a number that is going to be hard to move quickly,” she says. “It’s something that is going to have to happen when we feel that we’re a little bit less divided; that people feel they can talk about politics with their friends and neighbors and family and not feel that it’s going to get heated or combative.”

spinner image Fifty four percent of working women aged fifty plus concerned about their ability to retire when they want
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Retirement could be out of reach

Among women 50 and older who are employed, more than half (54 percent) are concerned that they won’t have the resources they need to retire when they want to. Among those who are retired, 45 percent said they feel less secure financially than they did a year ago, and 41 percent told pollsters they aren’t as well off as they thought they would be at this point in their lives.

“I think for women 50 to 64, a big theme that we found is just that they are concerned about the ability to have the retirement golden years that they were hoping for,” Soltis Anderson says. 

Older women wonder “if they’ll be able to retire and kick back and hang out with their kids or grandkids,” she says. “Then there’s also a portion of that group that really just is trying to get by day to day and isn’t even really able to spend a ton of time thinking about what those golden years will really look like.”

LeaMond says women in particular “face an uphill battle when it comes to their financial security. On average, women get paid less than men. And they are more likely to forgo promotions and other opportunities or take time out of the workforce to care for children and adult loved ones.” 

The results include “lower incomes, less ability to save and, eventually, smaller Social Security checks, which are based on lifetime earnings,” LeaMond says. “This is why AARP is fighting for policies like paid leave, tax credits for family caregivers and protecting and strengthening Social Security now and into the future.” 

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