How Do Americans Really Feel About RyanCare?


How do Americans feel about Paul Ryan’s drastic plan to overhaul Medicare? Both parties have touted separate polls with distinctly contradictory findings. But a closer look at the different surveys seems to suggest that Americans are more likely to support Ryan’s overall budget plan when it’s described in broad strokes—but they’re far less likely to support it when presented with the specific details.

A new Gallup/USA Today poll found that voters were split when asked whether they preferred Obama’s deficit reduction plan—focusing on tax increases for the rich—over the Ryan plan to revamp Medicare and Medicaid. The poll found that 44 percent supported Obama’s plan, while 43 percent backed the Republican alternative. 

But a separate poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found support for the Ryan plan dropped sharply when survey-takers explained the specific outlines of the Republican Medicare proposal. As Kaiser Health News reports, the Kaiser poll “found just 30 percent of seniors supported the idea of restructuring Medicare into a system where seniors are given government subsidies to shop for private coverage. In contrast, 62 percent of seniors said they wanted Medicare to be left alone with the program continuing to guarantee the same benefits to all enrollees.”

Democrats are banking that the Ryan plan will be politically toxic for the GOP. But these two polls suggest that won’t necessarily be the case: the GOP’s plan could still have widespread appeal unless Democrats manage to communicate exactly how the specifics of RyanCare would impact ordinary Americans. The Dems faced the same dilemma when it came to federal health reform: Americans tend to feel positive about many of the specific benefits of the Affordable Care Act, but the Republicans have continued to succeed in making them feel queasy about the law overall. So Democrats shouldn’t simply assume that Americans will recoil at RyanCare at first blush.

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  • Suzy Khimm was a reporter in the Washington bureau of Mother Jones from March 2010 until June 2011. For more of her stories, click here. Follow her on Twitter here.