In today’s political environment, it seems almost impossible to imagine an issue that could unite Americans. But results of a poll released this week by Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement and Caring Across Generations has found just that. Caregiving is a unifying priority across age, race, gender and political party.
The study found that two in three Americans have provided care for an older relative, child or other a family member—including large majorities of Democrats (62%), independents (66%), and Republicans (70%).
“It’s the defining experience of Americans today,” said Ai-jen Poo, co-founder of Caring Across Generations about caregiving. “It’s just more relevant than ever before.”
Those of us working in the longevity market have long seen caregiving as a growing concern, especially as the caregiver gap continues to widen. With the release of this new data, the poll sponsors called for a new, broader approach to caregiving solutions in the U.S.
They position the need for care in American as not just a “aging” issue, but as a financial, family, corporate, health and public policy issue that warrants attention and solutions that reflect this breadth of impact. The poll reinforced this idea with new data about the ripple effects of caregiving on families, businesses and even civic participation.
On average, caregivers estimate that they spend nearly 36 hours per week providing care—on top of working. With 69% of caregivers employed (55% full-time), it’s no wonder that businesses feel the effects of caregiving employees.
In addition, significant proportions of caregivers say they cannot participate fully as citizens due to the strains of their role: 36% have a hard time keeping up with news and current events, 33% do not feeling informed enough to vote in elections and 20% have not voted in an election because their caregiving responsibilities made it too difficult.
And while the burdens of caregiving still have a disproportional impact on women—devoting more of their time (average 39 hours per week for women vs. 22 hours for men); feeling more stressed (44% of women vs. 30% of men); and being less financially prepared (26% of women have saved for future care needs vs 42% of men)—the poll also found that the burden is widening.
“Care is an intergenerational struggle in need of a holistic solution,” says Poo.
A large-scale federal program is such a holistic solution, according to the poll sponsors—and it’s one that Americans can get behind.
The poll found that 82% of respondents supported a new federal program that Americans would pay into and access as needed for a range of caregiving needs including childcare, long-term care, and paid family and medical leave. Support was high among all political parties: Democrats (90%), Independents (84%) and Republicans (71%).
“What’s exciting to me this that there’s widespread bipartisan support around these issues,” said Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement.
Not only is backing for this kind of solution bipartisan, but also it crosses races and ages. The poll found that 78% of white respondents, 86% of Latinx respondents and 91% of African-Americans support a federal program.
Most Americans (78%) say they would participate in a program to support caregiving that everyone pays into and everyone could access, including 38% who say they are very likely to do so.
This growing need for—and support of—solutions signals a major opportunity for candidates in the 2020 Presidential election, say to the poll sponsors. They found that Americans are much more likely to support a candidate who prioritizes help for caregivers (85%), funding for Alzheimer’s and dementia research (74%) and universal paid family leave (67%).
They say that candidates who want to differentiate themselves can do it on this issue.
“People are asking candidates to address caregiving as an issue, Alzheimer’s as an issue. And yet, this is an issue that we haven’t heard anything really about in the debates,” says Shriver. “It feels to us, and to all these people dealing with it, like a silent epidemic.”
By breaking that silence, candidates have an opportunity to tap into a powerful voting bloc. As Poo asserts: “Across party lines, age, and ethnic backgrounds, Americans are looking for political leaders who understand the breadth of our families’ caregiving responsibilities, and who are willing to address our failing care infrastructure in ways that are more than piecemeal.”
This new poll, they hope, can inspire Americans to stand together, united as a nation of caregivers.