The AARP released poll results Monday showing Arkansans age 50 and older are experiencing a high level of anxiety about retirement issues, and in the race for the U.S. Senate, a slim margin of voters prefer Democratic incumbent Mark Pryor over Republican challenger Tom Cotton.
48 percent support Pryor while 43 percent support Cotton. The margin of error is 2.9 percent. 9 percent were undecided. The survey did not ask about Libertarian Nathan LaFrance or Green Mark Swaney.
Speaking on a conference call, AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said the poll of 1,200 likely Arkansas voters reveals through what it brands as an "anxiety index" that a high percentage of voters are unsatisfied with explanations on key issues and are worried about their future. LeaMond said the issue of in-home care has been overlooked. 74 percent of respondents found improving at-home-care to be important.
“Care giving may be a sleeper issue in this election. Across party lines people want to receive care in their homes rather than in more costly nursing homes and they want more support for care giving so that the elderly and people with disabilities can live independently. Many voters 50+ have been or are care givers or certainly expect to be care givers,” said LeaMond.
A Talk Business-Hendrix College poll released late last month showed Tom Cotton holding a slight lead over Mark Pryor with the 65 and up age group. Even though the AARP survey was released after the Talk Business-Hendrix College poll the Talk Business-Hendrix College results are from a more recent sampling. The AARP survey was conducted from June 24th to July 1st. The Talk Business-Hendrix College poll was conducted July 22nd-25th.
The AARP survey also shows 82 percent of respondents found improving Medicare to be an important issue. 85 percent identified strengthening Social Security, particularly keeping up with the cost of living, to be important.
Although the poll showed a slight edge for Pryor, which is even tighter when broken down from 50+ to the 65-75 range, the results also reveal an overwhelming majority think all candidates need to do a better job explaining their positions. Nancy LeaMond says 81 percent want a better explanation on Medicare and Social Security.
"50 plus (age) voters have had enough of political jargon and spin. They say the haven't heard enough about candidates plans for key issues like Social Security, Medicare, independent living, and financial security. The message from these voters we think is clear. In a razor tight election candidates have a major opportunity to reach key voters by speaking about their plans on these issues," said LeaMond.
UPDATE: Senator Pryor later reacted to the poll results and concerns indicated by seniors. In an interview with KUAR News, Pryor said:
I do hear that a lot from seniors and I think they’re worried that the cost of living is outpacing their savings and they talk to me about the fact that my opponent voted to raise the age to 70 in Medicare and he’s trying to make cuts to Medicare and Social Security. I do hear those issues and I was encouraged by the poll, but I don’t pay that much attention to polls.
KUAR reached out to Cotton's campaign, with spokesman David Ray emailing this statement:
Tom Cotton has led Senator Pryor in 10 of the last 12 polls, and those polls show that we are winning the support of Arkansas seniors. Seniors know that Senator Pryor supported Obamacare and it's devastating cuts to Medicare and Medicare Advantage, and that Tom Cotton opposes Obamacare and believes we need to start over on healthcare reform.
Green Mark Swaney:
Social Security is a promise made to millions of hard working Americans, and it is not charity and it is not socialism. They took our money, and promised to give it to us in payments when we were older. That promise must be kept, and if it needs to be kept by raising more money, then it should be done.
I favor a variety of ways to increase funding for the government, and just one of those ways is a transaction tax on Wall Street. But the basic strategy is simple – fund the obligations of the government, if money must be raised, then raise it!
The problem with elder care must also be addressed. People who have worked their entire lives and now are not able to care for themselves must be cared for, and it must be done without bankrupting their families. This can be done, and a government that cares for the lives of its citizens will do it.
Libertarian Nathan LaFrance:
It is time to eliminate federal entitlement programs, allow the private sector to provide resources for those truly in need, and put money back into taxpayers' pockets. In the U.S. Senate, I will draft and promote legislation to do so.
As an example, to phase out social security I will draft legislation which will:
1. Preserve ALL promised benefits to current retirees and those near retirement age. Our seniors will not have to worry about a reduction in their federal benefits.
2. Reduce social security benefits for today's middle aged workers. This impact will be offset by a significant reduction in their federal taxes, including a complete phase out of the social security tax.
3. Eliminate social security benefits for today's young workers.