Women over age 50 might be the group that determines which party ends up in control of Congress after the Nov. 8 midterm elections — but the majority still don’t know who they will vote for, according to polling released Tuesday by the AARP.
“As the largest bloc of swing voters heading into the midterms, women voters 50-plus can make the difference in 2022 and decide the balance of power in Congress and statehouses across the country,” Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president, said in a statement.
LeaMond participated in a roundtable with four pollsters to discuss their recent research that found top priorities for women over 50 include protecting Social Security from cuts, lowering the cost of living expenses and expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision.
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake echoed LeaMond’s statement at the roundtable, saying, “this is a group of voters still watching to make up their mind and that could be the critical difference in this election.” She noted that women over 50 are very motivated to vote and have “the highest turnout rates of any other age or gender group.”
The high number of undecided voters among this group is not attributable to a lack of attention or interest, said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster and founding partner at Echelon Insights, but rather because “they’re genuinely motivated, excited, they’re planning to vote.”
“It seems as though in a moment where we’re very polarized, the fact that in our study, you know, you only had 49% of women 50-plus say I’ve already decided, that to me is notable, that many of them are still watching what they’re seeing on TV, listening to candidate debates, that these things matter,” Anderson said.
AARP research released Tuesday found that while the economy and inflation are broadly top of mind for older women, among Democrats the top priorities are addressing voting rights, threats to democracy, gun violence and abortion. Republican women, on the other hand, listed inflation, crime, immigration and election security as their top priorities.
“In the next two weeks, a huge bloc of these women will make up their minds,” Lake said. “They’re very, very frustrated with how little politicians understand about their lives and they look to hear about issues like Social Security in particular.”
According to the poll, the biggest actions that would help older women the most financially are lowering the cost of food (66%), lowering the cost of gas (58%), lowering the cost of health care (57%) and expanding Medicare to cover dental and vision (57%).
Forty-one percent of those surveyed reported cutting down on essentials due to rising costs, and two-thirds have cut down on non-essential spending.
Inflation may be particularly “cross-pressuring” older Hispanic women to a certain degree to vote in a way they normally wouldn’t, said Christine Matthews, the president of Bellwether Research & Consulting.
Matthews noted two-thirds of Hispanic women polled said the economy is not working well for them, a jump from being about equally divided earlier this year, while white women this year have been “fairly evenly divided” and African American women have become more positive about the economy (67% now say it is working well for them).
Inflation is not just an issue for women over 50: a separate Monmouth University poll released Monday showed it to be the #1 priority for Americans, with 82% calling it either an extremely or very important issue to address. That same poll found that 66% of Americans disapproved of President Joe Biden’s handling of inflation.
Lake does not think inflation inherently benefits Republican candidates, saying that she thinks “voters think that neither party is doing a very good job on the economy or inflation, frankly.”
“And I think that works in two ways. I think that one that may elevate the power of other issues like the abortion issue, because there’s a clear distinction,” she continued. “But secondly, I think as we head into these last five weeks, I think this offers Democrats a great opportunity, particularly with these women over 50,” to highlight issues such as lowering prescription drug costs, protecting social security and expanding Medicare as an answer to inflation.
The AARP research was conducted between Sept. 6-13 and included interviews with 800 women voters age 50 and over who are likely to vote in 2022. It included oversamples of Black, Hispanic, and Asian American and Pacific Islander women and has a margin of error is +/- 3.5%.