During the 2016 election, we saw Alzheimer’s become a significant issue in campaigns across the nation. From Hillary Clinton’s release of her Alzheimer’s plan, to the Indiana Senate debate, to political advertisements in congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, candidates ran on their ideas to fight Alzheimer’s disease. None of this could have happened without the ongoing grassroots work of the Association’s advocates and the actions of AIM.

In December AIM held its 2016 election wrap conference call for members and hosted two special guests - Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), the current chairman of the National Republican Congressional Campaign Committee, and Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research and a premier Democratic pollster.

Rep. Stivers discussed how the messaging of AIM and the Association’s advocates is having a lasting impact because they speak with one voice on what’s needed in the fight against Alzheimer’s. Chairman Stivers also talked about the need for more Alzheimer’s research and how he’s become a champion because of his own connection to the disease. As a member of the Alzheimer’s Congressional Task Force and Co-Chair of the Biomedical Research Caucus Chairman Stivers will continue to be a leader for increased research funding as well as care and support for families and caregivers.

In the days surrounding the 2016 election, Lake Research conducted a national poll asking voters about their views on the Alzheimer’s crisis. The anxiety that Alzheimer’s disease causes was evident across the political spectrum in the poll, and when voters were asked which disease they feared getting the most, only cancer exceeded Alzheimer’s disease in fear for voters. This anxiety and these experiences are leading voters to be very supportive of federal intervention on Alzheimer’s disease. Here is a summary of the polling results as presented by Celinda Lake:

  • Americans age 35 and over fear Alzheimer’s more than any other disease. For Americans age 50 and over, 40% of Americans most fear getting Alzheimer’s compared to 28% for cancer, 9% for heart disease and less for other conditions.
  • Nearly one-third of voters (32%) have a family member or close friend with Alzheimer’s.
  • One-in-four voters (24%) either are currently providing or have provided regular care or assistance to someone with Alzheimer’s.
  • 92% of voters support increasing federal investments in medical research for Alzheimer’s. This is the highest percentage we’ve seen for increased research funding and overall support is very high across party lines.
  • 90% of voters showed widespread support for Medicare and Medicaid providing more services for care and support for those with Alzheimer’s. Again, this fell across all demographic and political groups.

The polling results reaffirm that the public wants to see more done on Alzheimer’s policy by our nation’s leaders.

The AIM call ended with a wrap up of AIM and AIMPAC activities in the election cycle. 2016 was the most successful election for AIMPAC with 95% of AIMPAC-supported candidates winning their races. Additionally, AIM and AIMPAC conducted Independent Expenditures for congressional champions this cycle for the first time. AIM conducted digital ads targeting voters in Missouri for Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and in Washington state for Senator Patty Murray (D-WA). AIM also conducted an issue advocacy mail campaign for Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) in their reelections.

Finally, AIM Board of Directors member Jackie Kouri of Oklahoma made a passionate appeal for AIM members to contribute to AIMPAC. Jackie talked about her rewarding experience in AIM and how she’s seen, first-hand, members of Congress become champions because of the policy education by Alzheimer’s advocates and the political support of AIMPAC.

As the 2018 election cycle progresses, AIM will be working with congressional champions on our federal legislative priorities and ensuring that Alzheimer’s remains a top issue in Congress and on the campaign trail.

John Funderburk is the Field Director of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.