In Colorado and nationwide, AARP is running a campaign designed to mobilize Americans age 50-plus to ‘Be the Difference. Vote.’ Counting one in eight Coloradans and 38 million people nationwide as members, AARP hopes the campaign will provide a significant boost to an already-active voter segment.
“The 50-plus voting block is the largest and most powerful in the United States,” says Bob Murphy, State Director for AARP Colorado.
In the 2016 Presidential election, an impressive 90.5 percent of registered voters age 50-plus exercised their right. Comparatively, only 75.5 percent of the same demographic voted in the 2014 midterm elections. Although that’s still considered a good turnout, it equates to 16 million less voters making their voices heard — an amount larger than the entire number of registered voters ages 18 to 34. That’s a gap that AARP is hoping to close this year.
Their efforts to mobilize the 50-plus voters have included extensive email blasts, press releases, media interviews and member polling. Says Murphy, “We’ve taken more than two dozen polls in various states around the country this year, including one in Colorado, and the results of that poll really mirrored those in the rest of the country.”
A few key results from that poll recently conducted in Colorado’s Sixth Congressional District were:
• 90 percent think Medicare is important for retirees’ health
• 87 percent want Congress to strengthen Medicare
• 81 percent think it's unfair insurance companies charge higher rates for older adults
• 72 percent want candidates to strengthen Social Security
Murphy says, “AARP is nonpartisan. We don’t have a PAC (Political Action Committee) and we don’t contribute money.” But, AARP does try to educate their members on where candidates in key races stand on the issues that are important to them.
This year they’re involved in the gubernatorial race and in the state treasurer race to the extent that they’ve created video voter guides featuring the candidates, which can be viewed at: aarp.org/politics-society/government-elections/info-2018/colorado-governor-candidate-questions.html.
Many candidates base their platforms on cutting ‘entitlements,’ but AARP’s concern is that many voters don’t fully understand the economic impact. “Eighty-eight percent of Coloradans age 65 and above collect Social Security. About 813,000 people in Colorado. It’s a more-than-$20-billion industry in the state. So if you take that monthly check of $1,250 on average, times 813,000 recipients, that money travels through the economy,” Murphy says.
The same goes for Medicaid. “[It’s] a much-maligned program, but we know that one out of every six health care dollars in this country moves through the Medicaid system. It’s critical for rural hospitals to keep their doors open. We know that Medicare is a $7.6-billion-per-year business in the state of Colorado, so when you combine the economic impact of these so-called entitlement programs … that’s bigger than the whole gas industry. I think that’s an angle people need to look at it from. It contributes to the economy,” he says. Furthermore, the results of AARP’s polling seem to indicate that the preservation of programs like these is important to the 50-plus voter.
That being said, Murphy maintains that ‘Be the Difference. Vote.’ is less about how people vote, and more about them participating in the election. He says, “The whole foundational message to the AARP campaign is: Please vote. Please exercise your democratic right — you can make a difference. That’s what America is all about.”
For more voter information from AARP, visit AARP.org/vote?.