Despite repeated attempts to paint Republicans as bad for Medicare and Social Security, President Obama and Sen. Bill Nelson are essentially tied with their Republican rivals when it comes to Florida retirees and baby boomers, a new AARP poll shows.
Obama garners 44 percent of the vote to Mitt Romney's 46 percent and Nelson trails Republican Rep. Connie Mack by a 42-39 split. The Republican leads are well within the 4.4 percent error margin for the poll of the 503 registered voters surveyed by Hart Research Associates.**
Indeed, the Nelson-Mack race might be even tighter, with 19 percent of voters undecided. Without so-called "leaners"-- those unsure voters asked whom they lean toward -- Nelson is slightly ahead of Mack by 29-31 percent.
Underlying the senior's sentiments are persistent fears of the bad economy, their finances and the increasing sense that they'll have to rely on Social Security and Medicare for their retirement. Because many Republican plans call for bigger future-year changes to the entitlements that could eventually reduce benefits, Democrats have long been able to persuade senior voters that they're better equipped to manage these programs, which were created by Democrats.
The poll shows that retirees are much more sanguine about their savings, finances and the comfort of their living conditions than Baby Boomers. Baby Boomers are essentially deadlocked 45-46 percent over Romney and Obama. But retirees favor Romney by 5 percentage points, 48-43 percent, over Obama.
White retirees -- among those most-likely to vote in an election -- overwhelmingly favor Romney over Obama by a 54-38 percent spread. Those who are confident about retirement with Obama over Romney, 56-41 percent. It's the reverse for those who are not confident: 50 percent for Romney and 36 percent for Obama.
Substitute "retirement" for "economy" (after all, the sense about one's retirement reflects the sense of the future economy) and the poll indicates that confidence in the economy is damaging Obama more than Romney.
Indeed, 49 percent of non-retired Boomers essentially believe they might never be able to retire -- that they'd have to work until they die.
The candidates and the news media come in for criticism as well from the respondents who say none has done a good job fleshing out the platforms about Social Security and Medicare.
Some takeaways from the poll:
A major driver of economic anxiety is concern over retirement security: 62% believe they will have to delay retirement, 58% worry they won’t have a comfortable retirement, and 49% don’t think they’ll ever be able to retire. This insecurity leads Boomers to conclude that Medicare and Social Security have become even more important for their future.
50+ voters in Florida want to know where the candidates stand on Medicare, Social Security, and other vital issues. But they report that the candidates have done a poor job explaining their plans on priority issues, including strengthening Social Security (63%), strengthening Medicare (60%), reducing the budget deficit (66%), and taxes (55%).
**Note: We're waiting on the Republican-Democrat-independent breakdown of the poll to make sure it accurately reflects the electorate.