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Poll: Where Medicare Ranks With Voters

With the presidential election now just four weeks away, the health of Medicare and the program’s prospects will likely play a crucial role in voters’ decisions — and President Obama could be the primary beneficiary.

Feng Yu /

The latest Health Tracking survey from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 36% of Americans say Medicare is “extremely important” to their vote in the election, trailing only the economy (49%) and the federal budget deficit (41%)  among the public’s top priorities.

Among older Americans, that margin narrows: 46% of individuals age 65-plus say Medicare is “extremely important” to their vote for president, second only to the economy (51%) as the group’s biggest concern.

Obama could benefit from worries about Medicare. When asked which presidential candidate they “trust to do a better job” in determining Medicare’s future, fully 52% of the public picked the president, compared with 32% for Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney. But here, too, age makes a big difference: Among individuals age 65-plus, 44% named Obama as the best shepherd of Medicare — and 42% named Romney.

One key footnote: The Kaiser poll was conducted before the first presidential debate, in which Medicare figured prominently — and in which Romney was regarded by many commentators and viewers as having out-debated Obama.

Medicare and Social Security are together the largest U.S. public benefit programs and account for one-third of the federal budget. In April, the trustees who oversee Medicare’s finances projected that the fund that pays for hospital benefits would be exhausted in 2024.


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About Encore

  • Encore examines the changing nature of retirement, from new rules and guidelines for financial security to the shifting identities and priorities of today’s retirees. The blog also explores news that affects retirement, from the Wall Street Journal Digital Network and around the web. Lead bloggers are reporter Catey Hill and senior editor Jeremy Olshan. Other contributors include The Wall Street Journal’s retirement columnists Glenn Ruffenach and Anne Tergesen; the Director for the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, Alicia Munnell; and the Director of Research for Pinnacle Advisory Group, Michael Kitces, CFP.