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The Issue of Medicare in the 2012 Campaign
Minority Leader Pelosi reflected the Democrats’ view of the Medicare issue when she said after Congressman Ryan was selected as the vice presidential candidate,
“There are three important issues in this campaign. And in alphabetical order, they are Medicare, Medicare, Medicare…We have a very excellent chance to take back the House.”
Instead, Medicare was not as significant an issue in the campaigns as imagined. Only 40% of voters recall candidates running for Congress or Senate talking about or sponsoring commercials about Medicare.
This 40% recall falls far short of the 55% to 72% recall consistent with past Public Opinion Strategies Election Night surveys of the core past issues that dominate an election cycle.
This cycle, Medicare recall was similar to a more detailed description of proposed changes to Medicare by Republican candidates (39% recall) and the new health care law cutting Medicare by $716 billion (43% recall).
Reaction to the Republican proposed changes to Medicare was a modest net negative (19% more likely to vote for the Republican candidate, 28% less likely, a net minus nine points).
The net negative reaction to Democrat support for cutting Medicare by $716 billion was minus 18 percentage points (10% more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate, 28% less likely).
Among seniors, though, the Republican proposed changes to Medicare were break even (28% more likely to vote for the Republican candidate, 27% less likely), while Democrat support for cutting Medicare was a significant net negative (14% more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate, 38% less likely).
Other polling has looked only at reactions to the Republicans’ proposed changes to Medicare, without also looking at the impact of the upcoming Medicare cuts on the Democrats’ campaigns. When asked a parallel sequence about both parties, it was the Democrats who carried the higher net negatives, especially among seniors.