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Republican Voters, Party Leaders Disagree Over Cuts to Social Security, Medicare

AARP surveys find Iowa, Florida GOP primary voters dead set against cuts to senior citizen programs to balance budget

Nov. 11, 2011 – An obvious and perhaps disastrous disconnect seems to have developed between Republican voters – senior citizens in particular - and their national party, including their presidential candidates. AARP has just released polls from Florida and Iowa showing a vast majority of GOP voters oppose cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit – solutions the leadership is suggesting.

AARP yesterday released survey results showing that by margins of more than two to one, likely Republican voters in Florida oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits. AARP says its survey highlights the major disconnect between the Washington establishment and Republican voters in Florida who will be critical in determining the next Republican Presidential nominee.


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Survey numbers for Iowa were also released yesterday and the difference there is even greater. It shows that by nearly 3 to 1, (64.5% for Social Security, 67.3% for Medicare), likely Republican Caucus goers overwhelmingly oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit.

AARP’s 2012 GOP Iowa Caucus Survey highlights the major disconnect between the Washington establishment and likely Republican voters in Iowa who will be critical in determining the next Republican Presidential nominee. While Washington talks about making a deal to cut Social Security and Medicare to meet budget targets, voters in the first in the nation caucuses say they oppose cuts to the benefits they earned and need.

“Opposition to these benefit cuts among Republicans across the ideological spectrum confirms what AARP has been hearing from Iowans throughout our campaign to protect Social Security and Medicare: Whether Republican, Democrat, Independent or Tea Party supporter, voters overwhelmingly oppose cuts to these programs,” said AARP Iowa State President Tony Vola.

 “The message these voters are sending is clear: Do not cut the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned,” said Nancy LeaMond, Executive Vice President for AARP. “These findings demonstrate that strong majorities of supporters for every Republican presidential candidate oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits.”

AARP surveyed likely Republican voters in four early-voting states: Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

By margins of more than six to one, Florida Republican primary voters said that Social Security benefits will be important to their monthly income in retirement and slightly more than half said they currently rely on Medicare or Medicaid for their health-care coverage.

The survey asked Republican voters if they favored or opposed cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits of future retirees to reduce the deficit. Even Florida Republican voters who said they agreed with the Tea Party, and had attended Tea Party events, opposed cuts to future retirees’ Social Security benefits and Medicare benefits as deficit-reduction measures by landslide margins: 56.1 to 37.9 percent on Social Security and 62.1 to 31.8 percent on Medicare.

“This survey shows that Florida Republican voters and Washington elites profoundly disagree on the critical questions of the future of Social Security and Medicare,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP Florida interim state director.

“Repeatedly, Washington is targeting Social Security and Medicare to cut the deficit. Florida Republican voters, meanwhile, are telling Washington ‘hands off’ these critical programs.”

Among Hispanic Florida Republicans, the disparity is even more marked, the survey showed.

While Florida Republicans overall opposed cuts to Social Security to reduce the deficit by a margin of 66 percent to 27.6 percent, Hispanic Republicans opposed Social Security cuts as a deficit-reduction measure by 84.5 percent to 13.5 percent, a crushing six-to-one margin. While Florida Republicans overall opposed cuts to Medicare as a means of reducing the deficit by 70.4 percent to 22.2 percent, Hispanic Republicans opposed Medicare cuts 77 percent to 16.5 percent, more than a four-to-one margin.

Respondents were asked which candidate they would vote for if the primary was held that day. The survey was conducted Oct. 17-20. Candidates listed below were the top four responses. The results that follow are reflected by percentage:

Candidates Florida

Romney 31.0
Cain 29.0
Gingrich 11.6
Perry 8.6

Candidates Congressman Ron Paul, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman each polled less than 3 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Florida in this survey. Within Florida, the poll has a margin of error of 4.3 percent.

Iowa Voters Average Age 66

The mean age of the likely Iowa caucus goer respondent is 66 years-old. By strong majorities, these Iowans say Social Security benefits are or will be important to their monthly income in retirement (86%) and that the strength and solvency of Medicare is essential to seniors’ health care security in retirement (87%).

Survey respondents overwhelmingly self-identify themselves as conservative (76.8%) in their political beliefs, with 50.5% considering themselves very conservative and 26.3% somewhat. The most pressing issues for 68.8% are economic issues such as taxes, jobs and the budget deficit. When asked their preference on ways to cut government spending and reduce the deficit, respondents overwhelmingly say they prefer withdrawing troops from Iraq and Afghanistan over cutting either Medicare (67.3%-9.5%) or Social Security (65.0% -8.8%).

Respondents also were asked which candidate they would choose if the caucuses were held that day.

The Iowa survey, conducted October 17-18, yielded the following results (by percentage):

Cain 25.0%
Romney 21.5%
Paul 8.3%
Bachmann 6.5%
Gingrich 5.8%
Perry 5.3%
Santorum 4.0%
Huntsman 1.0%
Undecided 22.8%

The Iowa survey and each of the state survey reports is available at

AARP will provide information to its members and all Americans throughout the election season to help voters understand where the candidates stand on the issues that matter most to them and their families. As part of these efforts, AARP is launching its 2012 Republican Caucus and Primary Video Voters’ Guide on November 13.

The Video Voters’ Guide will feature one-on-one, unedited interviews by WHO-TV13 political reporter Dave Price with four of the top candidates on topics important to older voters, including: jobs and the economy, retirement security, Social Security and Medicare. Mediacom MC22 will air the Video Voter Guide in its entirety on Sunday, November 13 at 6 p.m. Central time.

The guide features candidates who registered at 5% or higher in an average of national polls. They include Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ron Paul and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain and Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney declined invitations to participate. The video will be mailed to Republican voters in the five early nominating states and will be available to all AARP members and the general public on, as well as through the AARP Bulletin. For more information on the survey or the Video Voters’ Guide, please visit

>> Current reporting on Iowa Caucus by Des Moines Register


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