American Public Opinion About Medicare
Tuesday, April 06, 2004
by Joseph Carroll
Decrease in Public Support of the Medicare Law
A March 26-28 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that just 41% of Americans favor and 35% oppose "the new Medicare law that deals with prescription drug benefits for senior citizens and changes the way Medicare will cover the medical expenses of some senior citizens." Last December, a few days before the bill was signed into law, a majority favored it by a margin of 52% to 30%.
Support has declined among all age groups, but the change is particularly significant among seniors -- people aged 65 and older -- who are the principal beneficiaries of the new law. Last December, seniors favored the new law by 46% to 39%, but now they oppose it by 48% to 36%.
The poll shows only about one in three Americans (35%) believe the new law will help seniors pay for their prescriptions, while 30% say it will have little effect and 20% believe it will actually hurt seniors. Another 15% have no opinion. Similarly, only 18% believe the new law will help make the Medicare program financially secure in the future, 28% say it will hurt Medicare in this regard, and the plurality (37%) says it will not have much effect.
Prioritizing Medicare in the 2004 Presidential Election Campaign
A recent CBS/New York Times poll, conducted in mid-March, asked Americans who are registered to vote to name one issue that they would most like to hear the candidates for president discuss during the 2004 presidential campaign. The economy ranked at the top, mentioned by 31% of registered voters. The war in Iraq followed next, at 11%, and 10% mentioned healthcare, Medicare, and Medicaid. Education and terrorism were each mentioned by just 4% of registered voters. Nearly a third identified some other issue as the one they’d most like to hear the candidates discuss.
President Bush and the Medicare Law
The most recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll shows that 40% of Americans believe the Bush administration "deliberately misled the American public about the costs of the new Medicare law," while 46% disagree. (The administration’s initial estimates of the program’s cost were revised upward after the bill became law.) Younger people are the most likely to believe there was a deliberate deception, with 47% saying there was and 40% saying there was not. The older age groups are more likely to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt, with the pre-retirement age group the most supportive -- 52% say no deliberate deception, while 37% say there was.
Most Americans are not satisfied with the way Bush is handling Medicare in general. Overall, 55% disapprove, while only 35% approve. The public’s ratings of Bush on Medicare have actually become slightly more negative since last December. At that time, 39% approved of his handling of Medicare, and 49% disapproved.