Poll: Americans agree with Paul Ryan on Medicare

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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TAMPA, Fla. — The issue of Medicare may not be an albatross around Republican necks, a poll released Monday by Resurgent Republic suggests.

The poll found that more Americans favor the Medicare reform outlined in Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan than want to keep Medicare as is.

Respondents were asked to choose which of two statements they agreed with most. One echoed the Democratic campaign line on Medicare and the other echoed Ryan’s conception.

“Congressman A says we should not balance the budget on the backs of our seniors. We need to cut back spending, but Medicare should be off limits. Republican plans to privatize Medicare are a Trojan Horse that will end Medicare as we know it,” says the first statement.

“Congressman B says Medicare will go broke if we do nothing because of all the retiring baby boomers. By giving people age 55 and under the choice of joining traditional Medicare or using Medicare dollars to buy a private health insurance plan, we can preserve and protect this important program for current recipients and future generations,” says the second statement.

Forty-five percent of likely voters said they agreed with the second statement more, while 40 percent said they agreed with the first statement. Independents leaned heavily toward statement B, 53 percent to 34 percent, as did swing state voters – 46 percent to 39 percent.

The numbers appear to undermine the Democratic assumption that Romney hurt his chances by selecting Ryan as his running mate.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, honorary chairman of Resurgent Republic, said that in his experience, “the more information the public has about Medicare, the better Republicans do.”

Barbour pointed to the 1996 presidential election, when he was running the Republican National Committee. That, he said, was the first time Democrats began using what he referred to as “Mediscare” tactics.

“When they started the Mediscare campaign, they blitzed us and moved the numbers,” Barber said at a briefing about the poll.

“Our response was kind of like Chinese water torture,” he explained, saying Republicans ran ads and more ads, continuing to disseminate information through media and GOP candidates.

The more Republican candidates talked about it, the better they did in the polls, he said.

Ultimately, Barbour said, “we split the vote with them” among voters who care most about Medicare.

The poll also found that when voters were asked if they agreed with statement A or the conventional Republican response – that President Obama cut $700 billion from Medicare to fund the new health care law – the electorate was evenly split. Forty percent preferred the second conservative argument while 41 percent preferred the first, liberal argument.

The poll’s methodology looked at what would be a best-case scenario for Democrats. The sample was 1,000 likely voters, a group that included 462 voters in swing states, an oversampling. Thirty-seven percent of respondents were Democrats and 30 percent Republicans, a seven-point split that pollster Whit Ayres described as the largest one seen in recent years: in 2008 when Obama was elected.

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