A Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released Thursday found that 50 percent of voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin said President Barack Obama would do a better job handling healthcare related issues that Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. A majority also said they would rather see Medicare "continue as it is," compared to the third who said they supported House Budget Committee-turned-vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan's proposal, which would reportedly increase out-of-pocket costs for Medicare beneficiaries by more than $6,000.
In contrast to both Romney and Paul's allegations that fundamental changes must be made to Medicare in order to curb waste, fraud and abuse, about three-quarters of the poll's respondents in each state said the benefits of Medicare, as it stands, are worth the cost to taxpayers.
Among the most critical demographic in the coveted swing states -- independent voters -- 60 percent said they support keeping Medicare as it stands, as well as at least 8 in 10 Democrats. While Republicans in Florida and Ohio were divided on the issue, in Wisconsin, Ryan's home state, most of those voters supported making changes to the healthcare program.
Overall the poll, which was conducted before Rep. Todd Akin, who is also a Republican Senate candidate in Missouri, made ill-advised comments regarding rape and abortion that caused an upheaval among the party, found that Obama currently has a six percent lead among voters in Ohio. The president currently holds a small lead in Florida (three percent) and Wisconsin (two percent).
Both parties are banking on Medicare being a particularly important issue in Florida, which has a significant population of seniors. The new poll found that in the Sunshine State, 62 percent do not want to see changes to Medicare, compared to only 28 percent who say it should be revamped.
But the demographic most interested in seeing those changes may be seniors themselves. One recent Florida poll found that 53 percent of seniors had a favorable view of Ryan, despite his controversial budget proposals, while 54 percent of seniors recently told the Republican-leaning Rasmussen that changes to Medicare under Obama's health care law "scare them," compared to only 34 percent who said the same about the Ryan plan.
There's one important detail to note about those results: the Medicare changes proposed under the Ryan proposal would not affect current beneficiaries over the age of 55. So, some seniors who are casting their ballots in November may be able to hold onto their admiration for Ryan because of one his most austere proposals will have no impact at all on their own healthcare.