It’s an election year. Presidential candidates across both parties (and beyond) are all fighting for your vote this November. With Baby Boomers being the 2nd largest generation of voter-age citizens, the issues pressing the 50+ population are varied.
In recent polls, the economy, health care, climate change and foreign policy make up the most important issues facing voters over 50. In line with naming the economy as their top issue this election, respondents showed that with regard to aging, they worry most about their personal economy and a secure quality of life. With prescription drug prices higher than ever before, it’s no surprise that the cost of healthcare stood out. Other healthcare related concerns included increasing Medicare benefits and the oversight of hospitals with long-term care facilities.
Another interesting voter priority this election is the legacy in which the Baby Boomer generation are leaving the younger inhabitants, climate change policies and social-racial equality has been a high priority of concern.
As of April 2016, an estimated 69.2 million Millennials (adults ages 18-35 in 2016) were voting-age U.S. citizens – a number almost equal to the 69.7 million Baby Boomers (ages 52-70) in the nation’s electorate, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Both generations comprise roughly 31% of the voting-eligible population. But how will each group vote?
Some political polls think the Baby Boom choice is going to be Donald Trump. Their reasoning? Immigration: many baby boomers remember their own childhoods as the time of the American middle class partly due to the immigration ban. In his 1964 book “Manpower and Economic Growth,” economist Stanley Lebergott concluded that advances in productivity could not account for all the wage gains since the 1920s, especially for low-wage workers: “Instead we find that halting the flow of millions of migrants offers a much more reasonable explanation.”
Unions were incredibly successful during this time because could not import foreign strikebreakers.. Millions of African-Americans migrated north to take the factory jobs that had been mainly taken by European immigrants and the era’s prosperity contributed to a magnanimous liberalism that extended rights to ethnic groups no longer seen as competition to the white labor force. President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration and Naturalization Act in the same year. The New York Times has called immigration “a new generational fault line,” because “baby boomers and older Americans – even those who fought for integration – came of age in one of the most homogenous moments in the nation’s history.” According to a recent Rasmussen poll, 56 percent of voters over 40 want to build a wall along the Mexican border, compared to 42 percent of 18-to-39 year olds.
Because wages have been flat for decades, we are seeing a rise in inequality not seen since the 1920s. On other social issues however, Baby Boomers are accepting of changes in American culture .
Even with immigration views, the over 50 population has done some partisan switching in recent years. They narrowly favored Obama for president in 2008 (by 50%-49%), then supported Republican congressional candidates by 53%-45% in the 2010 midterm elections, according to election day exit polls.
In 1970, when the oldest of the Baby Boomers were in their early 20s, the total publicly held national debt was about $283 billion, or about 28% of the Gross Domestic Product. Now, as the oldest Boomers approach age 65, the federal debt is an estimated $9 trillion or 62% of GDP – creating IOUs that members of younger generations may be paying down for decades. Even with this increase in GDP, a new Pew Research survey finds little necessity for support among Boomers for deficit reduction proposals. 68% of Boomers (compared with 56% of all adults) oppose eliminating the tax deduction for interest paid on home mortgages; 80% (compared with 72% of all adults) oppose taxing employer-provided health insurance benefits; and 63% (compared with 58% of all adults) oppose raising the age for qualifying for full Social Security benefits.
With these issues hopefully on the forefront of each candidate’s rhetoric, we could only hope that we are presented with enough facts during the next debates to make an informed decision.