Jobs and the economy and Social Security are tied as the most important issues for Maine voters age 50 and older in selecting a U.S. Senate candidate, followed closely by health care, according to a new AARP poll that shows older Americans could decide the 2020 elections.
The full results of the AARP poll, released Tuesday, find that 67 percent of voters 50-plus believe the country is on the wrong track, while 25 percent say it is moving in the right direction.
Eighty-five percent say jobs and the economy and Social Security are their top issues, followed by 83 percent who cite health care. Older voters worry most about the coronavirus (59 percent), having to pay too much in taxes (56 percent) and prices rising faster than their incomes (55 percent).
Maine voters 50-plus are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports protecting Medicare from cuts and ensuring America’s seniors get the health care they need (92 percent), allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prices (88 percent) and protecting Social Security benefit cuts (84 percent).
The results show that, despite the strong partisan divisions in the country, “there are some foundational programs that cut across these divisions — notably Social Security and Medicare,” says John Hishta, AARP senior vice president for campaigns. “These are areas that 50-plus voters care deeply about, no matter where they stand. And it shows that the candidates should be addressing those issues with these voters.”
Other key findings of the poll:
- Voters are split on whether they are more likely to vote for a candidate who is focused on maintaining law and order and preventing looting and rioting in America’s cities (46 percent) or one who is focused on increasing racial justice and reducing police violence against unarmed African Americans (44 percent).
- A majority (52 percent) say they are not concerned that an expansion of mail balloting will lead to voter fraud compared with those who are concerned (48 percent).
- Voters are more likely to vote for a candidate who is focused on keeping families healthy and reducing the spread of coronavirus in their community (52 percent) than those focused on rebuilding the economy by reopening businesses (41 percent).
- A majority (70 percent) say that neither they nor someone in their household know someone who has contracted the coronavirus.
Earlier results from the poll, released last week, showed that Maine’s U.S. Senate race is a statistical dead heat among voters age 50-plus. Incumbent Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican, has support from 49 percent of older voters while Sara Gideon, a Democrat, has the backing of 47 percent. Among all Maine voters, Gideon leads Collins 48 percent to 47 percent.
Collins, 66, is seeking her fifth six-year term as a U.S. senator while Gideon, 48, is looking to move from being speaker of the Maine House to serving in Congress.
The survey also revealed that 55 percent of older Mainers plan to cast their ballots in person on Election Day.
In the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden has a double-digit lead over President Donald Trump — both among all Maine likely voters surveyed and among voters age 50-plus. Biden leads Trump 54 percent to 40 percent among all Maine voters and by 54 percent to 41 percent among the 50-plus electorate.
The survey found that Maine’s voters over age 50 are worried about their votes being counted. A 63 percent majority said they were very or somewhat concerned that reductions by the U.S. Postal Service are going to prevent votes from being counted in November. Among those polled, 36 percent said they were not concerned about that issue. In all, 41 percent say they plan to mail in their ballots in November. Maine does not allow early in-person voting.
AARP’s Protect Voters 50+ campaign is designed to help make sure that even as America continues to deal with the coronavirus crisis, all voters get the information they need to safely cast a ballot.
“One thing we know is that virtually all older voters plan to vote this year,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president and chief advocacy and engagement officer. “They want to vote; they want their voices heard and they’re going to find a way to do that that’s safe,” she said. AARP is working in every state to educate older voters on voting options.
“We believe 50-plus voters are going to play a critical role in this year’s election,” LeaMond said. She pointed out that while Americans age 50 and older comprise 45 percent of the voting population, they accounted for 56 percent of the ballots cast in 2016. “They punch above their weight,” LeaMond added.
AARP commissioned the bipartisan polling team of Fabrizio Ward & Hart Research to conduct polls in five states with key U.S. Senate races, including Maine. The firms interviewed 1,200 likely Maine voters, which includes a statewide representative sample of 800 likely voters, with an oversample of 400 likely voters age 50 and older, between Aug. 30 and Sept. 5. The interviews were conducted via landline and cellphone. The margin of sampling error for the 800 statewide sample is plus or minus 3.5 percent; for the 886 total sample of voters 50+ is plus or minus 3.3 percent.
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