Declining Retirement Confidence Transcends Political Affiliation

Bill McInturff, a partner at polling firm Public Opinion Strategies, told a group of reporters that it is upsetting and unsettling to see that a lack of confidence in retirement savings has permeated throughout every economic class.   

McInturff said there are usually large differences in confidence levels depending on economic status. “Normally, if you have a lot of money, you’re not concerned. Now, across the board, everyone is concerned. It’s not like I’ve seen in the past; it speaks to how difficult these past four years have been since the recession started in ‘08.”

McInturff was referring to results from a national survey released this week, conducted by Lake Research Partners and Public Opinion Strategies, and commissioned by Americans for Secure Retirement (ASR), a broad-based coalition of more than 70 organizations committed to raising awareness of policy issues related to retirement security.

The survey reveals that anxiety about retirement is continuing to grow, with near universal concern about having enough to make ends meet throughout retirement.  

“What we’re seeing is significant, and increasing, concern from Americans of all political stripes about falling short financially during retirement,” said McInturff. “Not only are Americans concerned about their own financial health, but they also express widespread concern over how the continued contentious debate in Washington could further undermine what they are planning for in retirement. Even those who feel we must make dramatic cuts to deal with the debt think Congress needs to identify concrete ways to help Americans deal with further retirement instability.”

The survey reveals pervasive anxiety over how efforts to reduce our national debt may impact retirement security. Regardless of party affiliation, the majority of voters are concerned that cuts to Medicare or Social Security would have too significant an impact on retirement or that, if cuts are made, Congress must look for other ways to help Americans better plan for retirement. A majority of respondents also expressed support for proposals such as tax incentives to help save for retirement.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Eighty-eight percent of voters expressed concern about "being able to maintain a comfortable standard of living throughout retirement," with 52% of those individuals indicating they are "very concerned." This is up 15% from just last year.
  • Concerns aboutbeing able tomaintain a standard of living in retirementare extremely high across very diverse demographic groups:
    • White (86%)
    • African-American (88%)
    • Hispanic (96%)
    • Those without any investments (93%)
    • Those with over $100,000 in investments (84%)
    • Financial elites (81%)
    • Retired (81%)
    • Not-retired (89%)
  • A third (31%) of all voters believe that if policymakers are going to cut Medicare or Social Security, they must looks for additional ways to help Americans better prepare for retirement.
  • Half (50%) of voters believe lawmakers should not cut Medicare or Social Security because it would have too significant an impact on retirement. Interestingly, this concern does not strictly fall along party lines. A plurality of Republicans and Tea Party supporters (34% of self-identified Tea Party supporters, 39% of Republicans) and the majority of Democrats (62% ) express this viewpoint.
  • Eighty-eight percent of voters view tax incentives to help save for retirement as important. This includes 81% of Tea Party supporters, 83% of Republicans, 86% of Independents and 94% of Democrats.

"Continued economic uncertainty, high unemployment and instability in the stock market have placed a growing concern on retirement security, and it's an issue that transcends party affiliation," said Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners.  "As all eyes turn toward the 2012 election cycle, it's clear that fears regarding retirement security will play out big not only for Democratic voters, but even the most conservative of Republicans as well."

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, in consultation with Lake Research Partners, as part of a national survey of 800 registered voters.  The survey took place from September 10-13, 2011.  More information, including a detailed breakdown of the poll results, can be found here.