AARP survey shows support for entitlements

I recently said that, of all the advocacy groups that set up shop in the runup to the primaries back in 2007, the only one to return seemed to be ONE.

But another, AARP, has launched its own effort. It’s not as visible as those red T-shirts that Samuel Tenenbaum and his cohorts wore on AARP’s behalf four years ago, but it’s now noticeable. I had meant to listen in on a press conference call the nonprofit was having this morning about a new survey, but didn’t get back to the office from a speaking engagement in time to pull that off. But I can share the release that went with it:

Likely Republican Voters in First-in-the-South South Carolina Primary
Want Social Security, Medicare Protected from Deficit Cuts
AARP Releases Survey and Launches 2012 Republican Caucus and Primary Video Voter’s Guide

Columbia, SC – AARP today released survey results showing that by nearly 3 to 1 (68.5 percent for Social Security, 70.5 percent for Medicare), likely Republican voters in the South Carolina GOP Primary overwhelmingly oppose cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits to reduce the deficit.

AARP’s GOP South Carolina Primary Survey highlights the major disconnect between  Washington  and Republican voters in South Carolina who will be critical in determining the next Republican Presidential nominee. While the Washington  talks about making a deal to cut Medicare and Social Security to meet their budget target, voters say they oppose cuts to the benefits they earned and need.  Almost 600,000 South Carolina seniors received Social Security in 2010 and accounts for nearly 63 percent of the typical older South Carolina residents own income. Over 99 percent of South Carolina seniors are enrolled in Medicare.

“The results demonstrate that strong majorities of supporters for every Republican presidential candidate oppose cuts to Social Security and Medicare benefits,” said AARP South Carolina spokesman Patrick Cobb.  “Conservative South Carolina voters and voters who agree with the Tea Party oppose cuts to these programs. The message these voters are sending is clear:  Do not cut the Social Security and Medicare benefits they’ve earned.”

The survey interviewed 400 likely Republican primary voters (age 18+) in South Carolina with the mean age of 64 with 73.5 percent identifying themselves as “Conservative.”  Conducted by GS Strategy Group with funding from AARP, the research has a 4.90 percent margin of error.  Over 88 percent of voters said that Social Security benefits will be important to their monthly income in retirement and nearly all – 92.3 percent – say the strength and solvency of Medicare is essential to seniors’ health care security in retirement. When asked their preference on ways to cut government spending and reduce the deficit, respondents overwhelmingly say they prefer reducing U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan over cutting either Medicare or Social Security with 73.5 percent in favor of troop withdrawls to cut spending v. 8.5 percent preferring Medicare cuts, and 73.5 percent in favor of troop withdrawls v. 6.0 percent preferring Social Security cuts.

Respondents were asked which candidate they would vote for if the primary was held that day. The survey, conducted October 18-19, yielded the following results (by percentage):

·         Cain                            27.8 percent

·         Romney                      27.0 percent

·         Perry                          7.8 percent

·         Gingrich                     7.3 percent

·         Paul                            5.0 percent

·         Bachmann                  3.0 percent

·         Huntsman                  1.5 percent

·         Santorum                   1.3 percent

·         Undecided                  19.5 percent

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 with four of the top candidates on topics important to older voters, including: jobs and the economy, retirement security, Social Security and Medicare.  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.

The guide will feature candidates who registered at 5 percent 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 repeated invitations to participate. Mediacom Communications will air the Video Voter Guide in its entirety on Sunday, November 13 at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

For more information on the survey or the Video Voter’s’ Guide, please visit<>.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization with a membership that helps people 50+ have independence, choice and control in ways that are beneficial and affordable to them and society as a whole. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates. We produce AARP The Magazine, the definitive voice for 50+ Americans and the world’s largest-circulation magazine with nearly 35 million readers; AARP Bulletin, the go-to news source for AARP’s millions of members and Americans 50+; AARP VIVA, the only bilingual U.S. publication dedicated exclusively to the 50+ Hispanic community; and our website, AARP Foundation is an affiliated charity that provides security, protection, and empowerment to older persons in need with support from thousands of volunteers, donors, and sponsors. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Full disclosure: I am card-carrying member of the AARP, and the organization has advertised on this blog on more than one occasion.

18 thoughts on “AARP survey shows support for entitlements

  1. Doug Ross

    “the mean age of 64”

    Gee, people on Social Security and Medicare want to keep the entitlements coming. Especially when they are paid for by everyone else. What a shocker!

    AARP calls itself a non-profit as if it is some kind of charitable institution. It’s just a front for collecting huge royalty revenues (nearly all its multi-hundred million dollar revenue) from United Healthcare branded coinsurance for Medicare recipients.

    Of course AARP would want to keep the money flowing in rather than have adults be responsible for their own retirement accounts and healthcare spending. Because old people aren’t too bright.

  2. Barry

    I heard Tom Brokaw on the NPR show OnPoint last week. He was a guest.

    He took the AARP to task for the national commercial they’ve been running. He said their current position of “leave our benefits alone” was shortsighted and didn’t help solve the problem.

    A caller was mad at Tom about it. He didn’t back down.

  3. Bart

    My comment is not in favor of or against AARP.

    I have a question for you Doug, based on your last sentence, “Because old people aren’t too bright.”

    Exactly at what age does someone become old and not too bright? Is there a magic number we should be aware of so we can warn our families that when that day comes, our mental abilities will decrease to the point where we can no longer think for ourselves? Hell, I may have reached it already and not realized it yet. What did you say your name was again? I think I may have forgotten. Damn!

    You may end up being the most prosperous individual on this blog but not be able to remember any member of your family, friends, and how to find your way from your bedroom to the kitchen.

    It may be taken “out of context”, but your comment is a damn insult to older people. But, you have a right to your opinion, I have a right to mine. Well, if I could remember what my opinion was.

  4. Steve Gordy

    Doug, my late mother-in-law was exceedingly bright and capable of managing her money. But the Social Security survivors’ benefit which my wife got because her father died when she was 13 made it possible for her mother to keep her home and have her daughter attend college. Let’s hope you never come down with Alzheimer’s; you’ll really learn what money management problems are.

  5. Doug Ross


    I was being sarcastic. I trust adults to make their own decisions and not have to rely on a lobbying group that makes its profit off the selling products to the people it is supposed to represent.


    The scenario you mentioned is what Social Security SHOULD be for. I have no issue with collecting taxes to cover those situations. I have a problem with the retirement aspect of the system.

    FYI, my father-in-law just died a couple months ago. He was diagnosed with Alzheimers several years ago so my wife and I know very well about dealing with that disease. Not sure what that has to do with Social Security anyway.

  6. Brad

    Yes, I fully understood that Doug was being facetious. I was going to say so as soon as I booted up my laptop (I often approve comments on my phone, but usually wait until I’m at a real keyboard to respond), but Doug beat me to it.

  7. Brad

    As far as the AARP’s survey is concerned, the thing that worries me is the sort of thinking I found in the story in The State this morning (the day after my report, of course, ahem):

    “The S.C. Republican Party along with CBS will host the Spartanburg debate, expected to focus on defending the nation against terrorism, the growing nuclear threat posed by Iran and the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

    “But a new poll, out Thursday, suggests the candidates might be better off talking more about their proposed cures for the country’s domestic troubles.”

    We so seldom get these guys to talk about the business of being commander-in-chief. In a Tea Party era, all they want to talk about is fiscal issues.

    I just wished The State hadn’t conflated the debate Saturday and this unrelated survey…

  8. Bart


    I think you know I was “having a go at you”. You left yourself open with that comment. If my Dad had seen it, he may have come after you with with his best “Sunday chewing dentures”.

    Anyway, I do agree with you about AARP. It is nothing more than a lobbying group now and more concerned with the organization than the people it is supposed to represent.

  9. Doug Ross

    And the survey was done with a specific demographic in mind. It would be like polling Ron Paul supporters on whether the Federal Reserve should be audited.

    Junk data produced for purposes of continuing a revenue stream.

  10. `Kathryn Fenner

    AARP calls itself a nonprofit because it IS a nonprofit. So is Underwriters Laboratory (UL, the folks who certify electrical stuff). You don’t have to be a charity to be a nonprofit. You just can’t have profits inure to the benefit of private individuals.

    AARP IS a lobbying group–they make no bones about it. Hello?

  11. Doug Ross


    There are nonprofits that do good work and there are nonprofits that basically just exist for tax reasons. AARP is the latter. The CEO of AARP is doing quite well profiting from his nonprofit:

    Thomas C. Nelson, Past Ex-Officio/Past COO AARP Foundation & AARP, $1,176,614

    #5 highest paid CEO of a nonprofit… three of the four above him work for cancer charities and the other is the head of the Boy Scouts.

    AARP is just a scam that dupes old people into thinking they are working on causes to help them. They add no value.

  12. Doug Ross

    And do you think the people who whine about the pay for the CEO of UnitedHealthcare complain about the $1 million plus the AARP gets? AARP gets most of its money from United Healthcare.

  13. `Kathryn Fenner

    Look, why shouldn’t a CEO who is top quality get commensurate compensation regardless of where s/he works? I think that William F. Buckley, Jr., got it right when he said that it was great to pay top performers top dollar–but when they messed up, they shouldn’t.

    AARP is the voice for the older population, and I say bully for them. Before they got so powerful, old folks were eating cat food to survive.

  14. Doug Ross


    They aren’t just a voice (if they are a voice at all — what have they accomplished?). They are a marketing organization that sells supplementary health insurance to its members – a very captive audience that can be manipulated by fear. I will believe they are interested in the welfare of the members when they give up that revenue stream. Why don’t they lobby for a Medicare system that DOESN’T require supplemental insurance?

  15. `Kathryn Fenner

    @ Doug–
    If you really believe they aren’t anything more than a front to sell insurance, why not complain to the IRS to revoke their nonprofit status?

    My perception is that they have done a lot to advocate on behalf of their members and that they do a lot to educate their members. When I was on the Code Enforcement Task Force for Cola., we heard from a very knowledgeable person from the AARP about the business model for payday lending, for example. It lead us to advocate for limits on how closely together payday lenders could be located–to prevent the sort of easy rollovers the industry secretly favors.

    How do you know that AARP HASN’T lobbied for complete Medicare?

  16. Brad

    Oh, it’s not so bad. The only part I don’t like is when they clamp our eyelids open and make us viddy the films about the horrible things that will happen to us if we don’t sign up for the insurance…

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