Weiss: Midterm Elections are Here - Your Vote Sends a Message to Congress

Sunday, November 04, 2018

 

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The mid-term elections are here and Americans have an opportunity, if they choose to vote, to send a strong message to Capitol Hill about what policy issues are important to them.  All 435 Congressional seats are on the ballot including 35-Senate seats.  The outcome of these political races will ultimately impact older Americans.  Will Congressional lawmakers work to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, or protect those with pre-existing conditions?  Or will they put political differences aside to craft legislation that will put the brakes to spiraling prescription drug costs.

Last month, AARP released, a 52-page report, “2018 Mid-Term Election Voter Issue Survey,” that found that the majority of those surveyed say the following issues will help them make their voting decisions in days: lowering health care costs (79 percent), strengthening and reforming Social Security (75 percent) and Medicare, (70 percent) and putting the brakes to skyrocketing prescription drug costs (74 percent).

AARP’s survey data were collected by Alan Newman Research (ANR) between July 7 and July 18, 2018.  ANR conducted a total of 802 telephone interviews of registered likely voters age 50 and older. All data were weighted by education, race/ethnicity, age, gender, and census division according to Current Population Survey statistics provided by AARP.

What Issues Are Important to Older Voters?

Let’s take a closer look at AARP’s July telephone survey findings…

The top issue for the Democratic survey respondents was health care costs, Social Security, drug costs and Medicare while Republicans identified national security as their issue.

People become eligible for health insurance through Medicare when they turn age 65. Democrats responding to the AARP survey (77 percent) were more likely to support giving those age 50 to 64, the option to buy health insurance through Medicare than the responding Republicans (57 percent).

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and other lawmakers have proposed a national health plan in which all Americans would get their insurance from a single government plan (called Medicare-for-All).  The researchers noted that Democratic respondents gave the thumbs up (75 percent) to supporting this legislative policy while only 34 percent of the Republican respondents supported the health care policy.

The AARP survey also found that 66 percent of the respondents supported allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug costs to increase the solvency of the program.

Last year, Congress passed legislation that required pharmaceutical companies to contribute more to contribute more to close the Medicare Part D coverage gap to reduce the high out-of-pocket cost of drug costs.  The pharmaceutical lobby is working to reverse this requirement.  The AARP survey found that 78 percent of the age 50 and over respondents support the existing requirement to contribute more to close the Medicare Part D coverage gap.

Federal law prohibits insurance companies from charging those with pre-existing conditions more for health coverage.  While some want to repeal this law because they believe the person should pay more, others say that paying a higher premium is unfair.  The AARP survey found that 84 percent of the women and Democrats surveyed were more likely to say that the higher costs of healthcare is unfair for those with preexisting conditions.

The current federal law allows insurance companies to charge up to three times more for health insurance for those over age 50.  Some Congressional lawmakers propose increasing this charge up to five times more for health insurance.  Eighty-three percent of the older survey respondents oppose this, calling any changes unfair.

Over half of the age 50 older survey respondents have caregiving experiences. Two in five of these respondents believe they will become caregivers. The survey found that 75 percent of the respondent’s support employer requirements for family caregiving.  The requirements include: ensuring that employees can not be fired for taking time off for caregiving; allowing the use of existing sick leave for caregiving activities; allowing a limited amount of unpaid and paid leave for use by caregivers.

 Eighty-seven percent of the AARP survey respondents believe Congress should pass laws to protect caregivers from being fired for taking time off to care for a loved one. Most of these respondents (88 percent) also believe that stronger laws are needed to protect older workers from age discrimination.

Currently, there is discussion on Capitol Hill about the need for a rule that requires professional financial advisors, when giving advice to their older clients about their retirement savings accounts, to give advice that is in the best interest of these individuals.  The AARP survey found that 69 percent of the survey respondents agree to this rule.

Phone App Informs Older Voters on Aging Issues

The Washington, DC-based AARP today launches “Raise Your Voice,” the nation’s first comprehensive advocacy and voting app for smart speakers (works on Amazon Alexa and Google Home) . The voice-enabled experience is designed to help older voters to use smart speakers to become educated on a wide range of aging issues -- including Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs, Medicaid and caregiving.

“This groundbreaking skill empowers voters at a time when people are looking for trustworthy, accessible sources of information,” said John Hishta, AARP Senior Vice President of Campaigns, in a statement announcing the Oct. 11 release of the phone app.

To invoke the app, the user simply says their smart speaker’s wake command, followed by “Open Raise Your Voice.”  With days before the upcoming midterm elections, the user can direct “Raise Your Voice” to look up polling information and send it directly to the user’s cell phone. Similarly, the user can command the app to provide information on AARP issues.

“Traditional voter education is laudable and important work, but it’s a leap forward to develop technology that better supports voters as they seek out the location of their polling place, information on key issues, and the ability to contact their elected officials,” said Sami Hassanyeh, AARP Senior Vice President of Digital Strategy and Membership. “

The app is available here.

Send a Message to Congress

Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Washington, DC-based Alliance for Retired Americans, calls on older voters to “Know your rights before heading to the polls.”  Your state’s Secretary of State’s website can provide details about voter identification requirements and other laws.  If you are encountering problems with voting or suspect voter rights at your polling site, seek out an elected official to discuss, suggests Roach.  Also, call the voting rights hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683).

“Bring a snack, a book and even a chair if you think there may be a line. Don’t go home until your vote has been counted,” says Roach. “An unfortunate election result could lead to health insurers charging people aged 50-64 five times more than younger consumers for the same coverage. A good result could lead to an expansion of your earned Social Security benefits," he says.

Herb Weiss, LRI’12, is a Pawtucket writer covering aging, healthcare, and medical issues. To purchase Taking Charge: Collected Stories on Aging Boldly, a collection of 79 of his weekly commentaries, go to herbweiss.com.

 

 

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Related Slideshow: GoLocal Statewide Poll - FULL RESULTS, Conducted by Harvard’s Della Volpe Oct. 2018

Sponsor: GoLocal Prov

Sample: N=502 Rhode Island General Election Voters

Interviewing Period: October 5 – October 9, 2018

Directed by: John Della Volpe, Harvard University, SocialSphere, Inc.

Slideshow: responses are not in the order of the questionnaire 

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Are you registered to vote in Rhode Island?

 

Yes.: 100%

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What is your gender

Male.: 45%

Female: 55%

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Where do you live?
 

Metro Providence: 28%

West Bay: 27%

Blackstone Valley: 22%

East Bay: 13%

South County: 10%

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Could you please indicate your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 16%

35-44: 16%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

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This question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

50,000 or less: 32%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 18%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 16%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 14%

$150,000 or more: 11%

Don't know/Refused: 10%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 1%

High school grad: 17%

Technical/Vocational school: 4%

Some college: 26%

College grad: 32%

Graduate degree: 21%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

White, Non-Hispanic: 80%

Black or African-American: 7%

Latino or Hispanic: 6%

Other: 8%

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Which of the following best describes your current employment status?

Employed full-time: 45%

Employed part-time: 10%

Self-employed: 6%

Not employed / Homemaker: 6%

Not employed: 28%

Student: 4%

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Which one of these best describes your religious preference or spiritual outlook?

Catholic: 43%

Protestant:10%

Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian: 4%

Jewish: 3%

Muslim: 1%

LDS/Mormon: *

Another religion: 3%

Atheist: 7%

Secular humanist: 2%

No religious preference: 21%

Not sure: 5%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Democrat: 38%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: 6%

Unaffiliated: 39%

Don't know/Refused: 3%

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In November, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election? Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 86%

Probably be voting: 14%

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Did you vote in the 2014 midterm elections?

Yes: 80%

No: 10%

I don't remember: 9%

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Did you vote in the 2016 general election for president?

Yes: 89%

No: 8%

I don't remember: 1%

I was not eligible: 2%

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For whom did you vote? 

Hillary Clinton: 48%

Donald Trump: 36%

Someone else: 14%

I do not remember: 2%
 

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?  [Open-Ended Response]

Jobs and economy: 21%

Taxes: 20%

Roads: 11%

Education: 8%

State budget: 6%

Corruption/Public integrity: 5%

Healthcare: 4%

Immigration: 4%

Drugs and Opioids: 3%

Entitlements: 3%

Housing: 2%

Governor: 2%

Homelessness:1%

Don’t Know: 7%

Other: 5%            

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 19%

Wrong track: 38%

Mixed: 43%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Gina Raimondo, a Democrat

I am sure to vote for her: 18%

There is a good chance I will vote for her: 20%

It is possible that I vote for her: 17%

It is unlikely that I will vote for her: 13%

I will never vote for her: 32%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Allan Fung, a Republican

I am sure to vote for him: 15%

There is a good chance I will vote for him: 13%

It is possible that I vote for him: 23%

It is unlikely that I will vote for him: 20%

I will never vote for him: 29%

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Which of the following comes closest to your view regarding each of the following candidates for governor of Rhode Island? [RANDOMIZED]

Joe Trillo, an Independent

I am sure to vote for him: 3%

There is a good chance I will vote for him: 6%

It is possible that I vote for him: 31%

It is unlikely that I will vote for him: 30%

I will never vote for him: 30%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Has a vision for the state.

Allan Fung: 25%

Gina Raimondo: 31%

Joe Trillo: 11%

None: 12%

Don't know: 22%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will ensure that we have high-quality affordable health care. 

Allan Fung: 13%

Gina Raimondo: 28%

Joe Trillo: 11%

None: 17%

Don't know: 31%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Cares about people like me.

Allan Fung: 23%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 14%

None: 19%

Don't know: 19%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will make government more accountable to the people.

Allan Fung: 21%

Gina Raimondo: 24%

Joe Trillo: 12%

None: 19%

Don't know: 24%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will stand up to special interests.

Allan Fung: 17%

Gina Raimondo: 21%

Joe Trillo: 17%

None: 19%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is committed to improving education in public schools.

Allan Fung: 21%

Gina Raimondo: 43%

Joe Trillo: 6%

None: 9%

Don't know: 21%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is a fighter for the middle class.

Allan Fung: 22%

Gina Raimondo: 27%

Joe Trillo: 15%

None: 16%

Don't know: 19%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is honest and trustworthy.

Allan Fung: 19%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 9%

None: 23%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Will hold the line on taxes.

Allan Fung: 24%

Gina Raimondo: 19%

Joe Trillo: 13%

None: 19%

Don't know: 25%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Is fiscally responsible.

Allan Fung: 28%

Gina Raimondo: 29%

Joe Trillo: 10%

None: 12%

Don't know: 21%

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Next is a series of qualities and attributes that candidates for Governor could possess. Which candidate for Governor does each attribute apply to most? [RANDOMIZED]

Brings fresh ideas and perspectives.

Allan Fung: 23%

Gina Raimondo: 25%

Joe Trillo: 15%

None: 17%

Don't know: 19%

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If the election for Governor were held today and the candidates were: [ROTATE] Democrat Gina Raimondo, Republican Allan Fung and Independent Joe Trillo, for whom would you vote?

Gina Raimondo, a Democrat: 40%

Allan Fung, a Republican: 32%

Joe Trillo, an Independent: 17%

Don't know: 11%

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Attorney generals in several states have begun investigating sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, opening investigations and issuing subpoenas for documents.

Do you favor or oppose the Rhode Island Attorney General opening an investigation into the Archdiocese of Providence on issues related to possible sexual abuse of children?

Net: Support: 89%

Strongly Support: 61%

Somewhat Support: 27%

Net: Oppose: 7%

Somewhat Oppose: 5%

Strongly Oppose: 3%


Don't Know    4%

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If the election for the U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were: [ROTATE] Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse and Republican Robert Flanders, for whom would you vote?

 

Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat: 56%

Robert Flanders, a Republican: 32%

Don't know    12%

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Recently, it was announced that state officials approved a fast-track regulatory review of Massachusetts based Partners HealthCare’s proposed takeover of Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital system, and operator Women & Infants, Butler and Kent Hospitals. [RANDOMIZED]

Do you believe the quality of care for Rhode Islanders will:

Improve: 21%

Worsen: 19%

Stay about the same: 44%

Don't know: 16%

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Recently, it was announced that state officials approved a fast-track regulatory review of Massachusetts based Partners HealthCare’s proposed takeover of Care New England, Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital system, and operator Women & Infants, Butler and Kent Hospitals. [RANDOMIZED]

Do you believe the number of jobs available to Rhode Islanders will:

Increase: 22%

Decrease: 27%

Stay about the same: 38%

Don't know    13%

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The City of Providence and the state of Rhode Island are considering a proposal by New York

developer Jason Fane to build a 46-story luxury residence tower in Providence, next to a public

riverfront park.  The developer will invest $250 to $300 million of his own funds.  The project is

called the Hope Point Tower, it would be 170-feet taller than the Superman building and would

require waiving height restrictions and the use of state tax credits.

Net: Favor: 39%

Strongly favor: 15%

Somewhat favor: 23%

Net: Oppose: 52%

Somewhat oppose: 26%

Strongly oppose: 26%

Don't know:10%

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Earlier this year, legislation was filed in the General Assembly that would require that all Rhode Island public schools have a school resource officer on the premises -- if a school has over 1,200 students -- two school resource officers would need to be present.

Net: Support: 68%

Strongly Support: 37%

Somewhat Support: 32%

Net: Oppose: 25%

Somewhat Oppose: 14%

Strongly Oppose: 10%

Don't Know: 7%

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Do you support or oppose expanding Rhode Island’s free college tuition program at the

Community College of Rhode Island to the state’s two four-year colleges so that the last two

years of tuition at Rhode Island College and URI would be free for those recent high school

graduates, who are in a solid academic standing, and on track to graduate in four years? It is estimated that the cost of the program would be $35 million.

Net: Support: 55%

Strongly Support: 29%

Somewhat Support: 25%

Net: Oppose: 40%

Somewhat Oppose: 17%

Strongly Oppose: 24%

Don't Know: 5%

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Do you support or oppose an Educational Bill of Rights for students and parents in Rhode Island that includes:

1) The right to be taught by effective teachers.

2) The right not to be taught by teachers who, after due process evaluation, fail to meet standards established by state and local education officials.

3) The right to appropriate academic materials and resources.

4) The right to safe, clean and environmental-friendly school facilities.

5) The right to emotionally supportive schools that do not tolerate harassment, discrimination or abuse.

6) The right to attend a school where funding is based on student need with the goal of providing

access to adequate educational opportunities.

7) The right to a pathway out of a failing school.

8) The right to a fair, accurate and transparent assessment system that measures student

performance and need.

9) The right of parents to current and reliable information about their child’s progress and performance.

Net: Support: 84%

Strongly Support: 51%

Somewhat Support: 33%

Net: Oppose: 9%

Somewhat Oppose: 7%

Strongly Oppose: 2%


Don't Know: 7%

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Recently, Governor Gina Raimondo has been criticized for accepting $12,500 in campaign and

PAC contributions from members of the Sackler family. Owners of Purdue Pharma, the Sackler

family has been profiled in multiple national news outlets for fueling the US opioid addiction epidemic, through its painkiller OxyContin.

The Financial Times has also reported that the family also owns Rhodes Pharma, Rhode Island-

based drug maker that is among the largest producers of off-patent generic opioids in the US.

If Governor Gina Raimondo asked you for advice on this – would you suggest that she …

Return the money: 71%

Keep the money: 15%

Don't know: 14%

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In terms of the number of women who face sexual harassment in the workplace – would you say that sexual harassment in Rhode Island is a …

Major problem: 35%

Minor problem: 36%

Not a problem    7%

Don't know    22%

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Which party do you believe is most responsible for the Providence school bus strike?

Teamsters Local 251: 31%

The bus company: 21%

Mayor Jorge Elorza: 19%

Don't know: 29%

 
 

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