Poll: GOP Medicare-Ending Budget Bigger Political Fumble Than First Thought

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It doesn’t take much political savvy to note that Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) Medicare-destroying budget plan hasn’t panned out all that well for the GOP. But a new poll out from advocates for the Democratic health care law shows that the Ryan budget fail goes even deeper than embarrassed presidential candidates and special election upsets.

Not only does the poll show huge opposition to Ryan’s plan to replace Medicare with a voucher system, the poll shows Democrats winning the credibility war when it comes to Medicare and “protecting the middle class.” And — in a jolt of good news for the White House and Democrats — the numbers show that when voters are given Ryan budget messaging from opponents, support for the Democratic health care law actually goes up slightly in response.The poll was conducted by The Herndon Alliance and Protect Your Care, two groups focused on defending the Democratic health care law from political attack. Full details on the survey will be released later today, but an early look at the numbers suggests the political hay Democrats can make from the Medicare fight is abundant.

As previous polling has shown, voters in the new survey are overwhelmingly opposed to Ryan’s medicare plan. Here’s how pollsters described it, in what they called a “neutral description of the Republican’s proposed changes to Medicare”:

The budget proposed by Republicans in Congress would generate much of its savings by making changes to Medicare. For anyone who is now fifty-five or over, traditional Medicare benefits would not change, but for everyone else, Medicare would be turned into a voucher program. This would mean that instead of the government paying doctors and hospitals directly for treating seniors as Medicare does now, the government would provide vouchers to help seniors buy their own private health insurance policy.

The results? Just 38% support the plan and 54% oppose it. According to the groups, that opposition shoots up after voters are given some political messaging “about the substance of Republicans’ proposed changes to Medicare.”

Going deeper, the numbers show President Obama with the upper hand in more than just the Medicare fight. On healthcare, the poll shows voters trust Obama over the congressional GOP by a margin of 48-41. They trust Obama more on Medicare by a margin of 47-39.

But the most surprising numbers — and possibly the best one for Obama — are the results showing that political messaging against the Ryan budget may actually increase the numbers who support the Obama’s health care law. The legislation is enemy number one for Republicans heading into 2012, who hope to use continuing wariness about the bill to attack the president and Democrats this fall.

But after pollsters read voters an as-yet unreleased messaging about the Ryan plan, support for Obama’s health care law goes up a smidge. The number rises 3% to 45% support for the law among voters who were asked about Obama’s law following the messaging about Ryan’s budget.

The increase is not great, but it suggests a real problem for Republicans. If the numbers hold, the party could lose one of its main lines of attack against Obama and the Democrats at the same time the public’s fears about the future of health care in America shift away from concern about the Democratic law and to the plans laid out by Ryan.

The poll was conducted by Democratic firm Anzalone-Liszt and surveyed 800 likely voters between May 18 and 24. The margin of error for the results is 3.5%.

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