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Older voters want candidates who will protect Social Security, poll finds. Yet parties are tied for their support

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  • Social Security faces looming depletion dates for its trust funds in the next decade, prompting some experts to say the program is on the ballot this November.
  • Yet, while older voters rank the program as a top priority, they are not overwhelmingly supporting one party over another on the issue, according to a new AARP poll.
  • "Social Security is really an up-for-grabs issue," one pollster said.

Voters, ages 50 and older, will have a strong influence on the November election.

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And politicians who want to win their vote would be wise to emphasize personal economic issues that affect them, particularly Social Security, according to a new AARP poll of likely voters from the 44 most competitive congressional districts.

When asked one question — "How worried are you about your personal financial situation?" — 63% of all voters and 62% of voters ages 50 and older checked the worried box, according to the bipartisan survey conducted earlier this month by Fabrizio Ward and Impact Research.

"It's a substantial majority of voters who are concerned about their personal financial situation, and why economic issues are going to play such a big role in in this election," Bob Ward, partner at Fabrizio Ward, said during a Thursday presentation of the results.

Meanwhile, for older voters, ages 50 and older, Social Security is a top economic concern, the results found.

The program's trust funds are at risk of being depleted in the 2030s, at which point there would be across-the-board benefit cuts unless Congress acts.

Social Security an 'up-for-grabs issue'

When asked how important the health of Social Security is in determining their vote, 80% of voters — ages 50 and older — said it is either extremely important or very important.

The issue also ranks high as a priority for voters who identify as Democrats, Republicans or independents.

"Democrats only have a three-point advantage on Social Security right now, so the parties are basically tied," said Jeff Liszt, partner at Impact Research.

"Social Security is really an up-for-grabs issue," he added.

Many voters said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who will protect Social Security, he noted.

Another issue — family caregiving — also ranked as a high priority with voters in the older cohort. To that point, 80% of the group said they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who would provide support to family caregivers to help seniors live independently as they age, and 74% said they would support a candidate who would provide tax credits to help cover the costs of family caregiving.

While President Joe Biden has vowed not to cut Social Security benefits, former President Donald Trump said in a March CNBC interview that he would reevaluate spending on entitlements, which could include benefit cuts. Democrats in Congress have proposed plans to make Social Security benefits more generous, which would be paid for by taxing the wealthy.

Social Security advocacy organizations including Social Security Works and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare recently endorsed Biden.

It was only the second time in the National Committee's history that it endorsed a presidential candidate.

"We broke precedent in 2020 because we believed Joe Biden would fight for America's seniors — and protect Social Security and Medicare," Max Richtman, the group's president and CEO, said in a statement.

"We did not trust Donald Trump to safeguard either program or to uphold other cherished American institutions," he said. "Four years later, those beliefs have been validated beyond dispute."

More from Personal Finance:
Why there's fierce debate over creating a Social Security commission
How Supplemental Security Income benefits may change
Why more people don't wait to claim Social Security

When polling for the full ballot in the 44 competitive districts, Trump led with 42% among voters ages 18 and up, while Biden had 37% and Robert Kennedy, Jr. came in with 11% support.

Yet older voters, ages 50 to 64, are more likely to support Trump, while voters ages 65 and up are more likely to lean toward Biden.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans are tied with 45% support in the 44 districts. Voters ages 50 to 64 are the lone group favoring the GOP, with a 13-point margin. Voters ages 65 and up plan to vote for Democrats by five percentage points, the AARP poll found.

"Everyone's focused on the presidential race, but this is very much up in the air who will control the House of Representatives this year," Ward said.

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