Among all voters, the desire to keep the system as it is peaks at 65 percent in Florida, where more than one in five Americans who voted in 2008 were age 65 and older.
Generally, the more voters focus on Medicare, the more likely they are to support Obama’s bid for reelection.
The future of Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly and disabled, has become a flash point in the campaign since Romney’s selection last month of Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, as his running mate. The choice of Ryan — who wrote a proposal that would move Medicare toward vouchers as part of an overall attempt to curb the deficit — is considered a bold and politically risky move, given Medicare’s popularity.
Now, the challenges for Romney in the aftermath of the Ryan selection are becoming clear.
Although Obama faces his own problems among voters over health care, the fresh attention to Medicare appears to be blunting the negative fallout from his 2010 health-care reform law.
Romney has revived a Republican line of attack from the midterm elections that year, charging that Obama “raided” Medicare “to pay for Obamacare.” The criticism refers to $716 billion in cuts to Medicare in the health-care law — cuts that Ryan previously supported but has since said he would undo.
The law, which the Supreme Court largely upheld, remains controversial and is, according to an analysis of these new poll results, a drag on Obama’s reelection prospects. In Florida and Ohio, more voters have “strongly unfavorable” than “strongly favorable” impressions of the legislation.
But voter distaste for a Ryan-like plan may insulate Obama from the political fallout. It appears that Medicare may have become a winning issue — for Obama.
In Virginia, Cheryl Schaffer, 64, said she will vote for Obama in part because of his differences with Romney on Medicare.
“I’m hoping to have Medicare in six months,” said Schaffer, a Richmond retiree. “I don’t like what Romney is going to do to it.”
Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the poll findings were “irrelevant” because the question on the type of Medicare overhaul that Romney advocates did not accurately describe the plan. In an e-mail, she said that respondents were not told that Romney has promised not to change Medicare for Americans older than 55.