By a big margin, Americans say they trust President Obama to do a better job in determining Medicare’s future over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. The president has a 20-point advantage on what voters say is the third most critical election issue, according to a September tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
That’s a huge jump from previous polls reported just weeks ago. A CNN/ORC International poll from late August indicated neither Obama nor Romney had much of an advantage on Medicare and health care.
The majority of respondents in the Kaiser poll say they want to keep Medicare as is, though younger voters are more receptive to the GOP proposal to overhaul the federal health program.
Overall, less than 40 percent of Americans support switching to a premium support program. Some 44 percent of respondents ages 18 to 54 favored such a switch, compared with 25 percent of respondents age 55 and older, according to the poll.
Medicare trails only the economy and the federal budget deficit as key priorities for voters, and interest in the federal health program is even higher among seniors. More than a third of Americans (36 percent) say Medicare is “extremely” important to their vote in the election, compared to 49 percent who describe the economy in such terms and 41 percent who say so about the federal budget deficit.
For seniors, Medicare pulls nearly even with the economy as an issue, and Democrats are much more likely to say Medicare is an extremely important factor in their presidential pick, while for Republicans the federal budget deficit is about equal to the economy as their top concern.
And despite all the attention health reform has gotten, the issue only ties for fourth—with Medicaid and military spending—among the top priorities for voters.
Though the public is split on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and many don’t understand much of the components that make up Obama’s signature law, they still trust Obama more than Romney on health care matters.
The survey was conducted Sept. 13-19 and has an overall margin of error of 3 points.