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Jan 24, 2020
AARP Iowa Poll: Health Care Top Issue for Women Over 50, Surpassing All Other Issues
Many can’t afford to pay for health care and skip care due to cost

WASHINGTONA newly released AARP poll shows that, in the run up to the Iowa Caucuses, health care is the top issue on the minds of women voters age 50 and up. The survey, conducted by The Harris Poll, found that 48% of older women voters, including 57% of Democrats, rank health care as the most important issue facing the country. And, 41% of women 50-plus give elected officials a failing grade on dealing with the cost of health care and prescription drugs. 

“In 2020, older women plan to turn out in force, making them a key group that could decide this year’s elections,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP EVP and Chief Advocacy & Engagement Officer. “Candidates would be wise to listen to their concerns about issues like the cost of health care.  It is by far the most important issue and has a real impact on older women’s day-to-day lives. Not being able to afford the care they need is putting their health and their financial security at risk.”

This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of AARP from December 5 to December 25, 2019 among 1,001 age 50-plus, self-identified registered women voters in Iowa.

Additional findings from the survey include:  

  • Among Democratic 50-plus women voters in Iowa, 60% say they will definitely or probably attend a caucus.
  • More than one-third (37%) say they can’t afford to pay for their health care, and 28% report skipping medical care because it was too expensive.
  • More than half (53%) believe that drug companies charge too much for medication, and 45% say that health insurance companies prioritize profit over patient health. 
  • Close to half (43%) are not confident that they will have enough money to comfortably retire and 42% say it’s because their health care costs are too expensive.
  • Almost all (87%) believe that health care is a right and not a privilege and that older people (89%) and those with pre-existing conditions (86%) should not have to pay more.

The Iowa poll is the second in AARP’s “She’s the Difference” series, which will run throughout the 2020 election cycle. The series explores the priorities and concerns of women voters ages 50 and older – a key demographic that will likely determine the outcome of races across the country. A national poll released last month, the first in this series, found that 95% of women over 50 plan to vote in 2020, and nearly 7 in 10 have not decided who they will vote for.

This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of AARP from December 5 to December 25, 2019 among 1,001 age 50-plus, self-identified registered women voters in Iowa. The data from phone and online interviews were combined and weighted to reflect known demographics. The data are weighted to the population of female Iowa residents age 50-plus using population benchmarks from the Census Bureau’s March 2019 Current Population Survey and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2017 National Health Interview Survey. Weighting by education, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, marital status, household income, employment status, and landline/cell phone usage bring these data into line with the actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online to ensure representativeness among the online respondents. For telephone respondents, number of phone lines, recent phonelessness, and number of adults in the household were also included to account for probability of selection. In keeping with standards set by the American Association for Public Opinion Research, The Harris Poll does not estimate margin of error for this representative sample.


About AARP
AARP is the nation's largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

National Media: Colby Nelson, 202-706-8516,, @AARPMedia
Iowa Media: Julie Betts, 515-333-2578,, @AARPIowa