With Focus On Social Security, Bernie Sanders Draws Older Voters
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is drawing a lot of older voters to his rallies in New Hampshire and Iowa – and older volunteers could prove to be a valuable asset to the Sanders campaign.
While the Sanders for President campaign is certainly signing up its share of young volunteers, it's also focusing on older voters and the issues of greatest concern to this demographic group.
It's one of the reasons why the future of Social Security is a key Sanders priority. According to a new report from the Government Accountability Office, half of all households 55 and over have no retirement savings. Sanders says he's shocked by this report because it means that many seniors are relying solely on their Social Security payments that average roughly $15,000 a year.
"In climates like Vermont, the weather is cold, people need medicine, people need to eat, and they're having to make impossibly difficult choices,” Sanders says.
Sanders is backing a plan to boost Social Security payments by $65 a month. The plan would also provide larger annual cost of living adjustments. He wants to finance his proposal by asking wealthy people to pay more in Social Security taxes.
"We've had great turnouts in New Hampshire and Iowa and ... a lot of those folks are seniors who are prepared, I think, to stand with me and fight to make sure seniors can retire in dignity." - Sen. Bernie Sanders
"The way to do that is to end the absurdity by which right now we have a cap of $118,000 on taxable income,” Sanders says. “So somebody making $1 million a year [and] somebody [who] makes $118,000 a year, they're both contributing the same amount into the Trust Fund."
Sanders says he's encouraged that so many older people are being drawn to his campaign.
"We've had great turnouts in New Hampshire and Iowa and … a lot of those folks are seniors who are prepared, I think, to stand with me and fight to make sure seniors can retire in dignity,” Sanders says.
Norwich University political science professor Megan Remmel thinks focusing on the issues facing older Americans is a smart strategy for Sanders.
"This is a group of the electorate that's reliable in terms of turnout, that's reliable in terms of volunteering ... These are also people who are going to be able to donate in the hundreds, maybe up into the thousands." - Megan Remmel, Norwich University political science professor
"This is a group of the electorate that's reliable in terms of turnout, that's reliable in terms of volunteering,” she says. “They're not going to be fickle, they're not going to show up for just a day or two and then kind of drop off the face of the earth. These are people you can kind of rely on to not only show up to vote but to actually help out your campaign."
Remmel says older voters could also help Sanders raise money for his campaign because they generally have more disposable income than younger people.
"If a college-age student is donating it's probably going to be in the $5 to $10, maybe $20 increments, but this crowd is probably going to contribute in larger chunks,” she says. “And I know they're not people he's relying on for campaign finance, but these are also people who are going to be able to donate in the hundreds, maybe up into the thousands, getting closer to the campaign limits.”
Sanders goes back on the campaign trail this weekend when he addresses a Town Hall meeting in Keene, New Hampshire.
Correction 2:37 p.m. A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Government Accountability Office. The above text has been corrected.