President Obama’s once overwhelming lead on health care issues over former Gov. Mitt Romney has narrowed substantially and is almost eradicated on Medicare as the two continue to battle it out in the final push for the White House, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
The president—who had a double digit lead over Republican contender Mitt Romney in September on health reform, health costs and Medicaid—now has a lead in the single digits.
More likely voters still say they trust Obama over Romney on Medicaid (46 percent to 39 percent); lowering costs (46 percent to 39 percent) and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (48 percent to 40 percent), but by a much smaller percentage than even one month ago.
On determining the future of Medicare, 46 percent of likely voters say they trust Obama to do a better job and 41 percent trust Romney. In September, the president held a 52 percent to 36 percent advantage.
That’s despite the fact that 61 percent of likely voters continue to oppose the idea of changing Medicare to a premium support system, which Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have proposed to do. Senior voters are the most likely to oppose switching to premium support: 72 percent prefer keeping Medicare as is, compared to 58 percent of likely voters under 65.
Yet opinion against the Medicare premium support idea, which Obama opposes, doesn't appear to have translated into an advantage with seniors for the president when it comes to Medicare. Older voters are more likely to trust Romney than Obama on Medicare, 48 percent to 43 percent. The former Massachusetts governor boasts an even bigger lead among those 55 to 64, with 53 percent saying they trust Romney more on Medicare and just 40 percent saying they trust Obama.
The president’s main health care advantage is on women’s health, which the Obama camp has been jumping on in the final weeks of the campaign. Obama leads Romney 51 percent to 33 percent.
The nonprofit organization’s report comes just days before a long and often negative campaign season will come to a close. Health care issues have been at the center of contention as Americans remain torn about their feelings on the PPACA, Obama’s signature lawpiece. Only jobs and the economy have been more top of mind for voters.
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Kaiser’s October health tracking poll finds that roughly a third of likely voters name the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (37 percent), Medicare (36 percent), and Medicaid (30 percent) as “extremely important” to their vote, compared to half (52 percent) who say the same about the economy and jobs.
But for Democrats, Medicare (43 percent), Medicaid (43 percent), and the PPACA (41 percent) all share the top spot with the economy (43 percent). The economy is the winner (67 percent) for Republican voters, with the most important health issue, the PPACA (49 percent), ranking third behind the deficit (58 percent). And senior voters prioritize Medicare (50 percent), coming in a close second to the economy (54 percent).
The survey was conducted Oct. 18-23 among a randomly sampled group of 1,215 adults ages 18 and older living in the United States.