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Opinion: Voters wary of Obama’s health plans

With all the conflicting polls and survey samples using registered — as opposed to likely — voters, I decided to conduct my own poll using the same methodologies I used so successfully for Clinton.

On Aug. 23, I conducted a national survey of 500 likely voters through live telephone interviews. The poll finds Romney ahead of Obama by 50-43 — far different from the published polls.

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(The sample was 33 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 11 percent black and 8 percent Latino.)

Apart from the head-to-head vote question, my survey tracks with the others on most of its internals.

Obama’s personal favorability is 47-50 while Romney’s is 48-48. The president’s job approval is at 46 percent.

Asked who would do the best job of:

Improving the economy — O-39, R-49

Creating jobs — O-38, R-50

Strengthening Medicare — O-44, R-42

While the Medicare issue is important, it is not the major factor. Asked which is more important, “protecting and strengthening Medicare or improving the economy and creating jobs,” the economy won by 67-18.

Comparing Medicare plans without explaining them, voters break even with 41 percent favoring Obama’s and 42 percent backing Romney’s. Asked which scares them the most, Obama’s scared 46 percent and Romney’s scared 44 percent.

But vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has scored a bull’s-eye by his comparison of the two Medicare plans, and the following answers indicate:

Whose plan do you agree with more? Obama, who would save $716 billion in Medicare spending and use the money to cover the uninsured, or Romney, who would make the same savings but use the funds to extend the life of the Medicare trust fund?

Obama’s 38 percent fell to Romney’s 53.

And the president continues to draw big negatives over his plans to intervene in medical decisionmaking:

President Obama’s healthcare law sets up a board to issue guidelines and instructions to doctors and hospitals on what procedures, medications or treatment to use for each illness. Do you agree or disagree with this aspect of Obama’s legislation?

Agree: 33 percent. Disagree: 61 percent.

After argumentation, disagreement with Obama’s Medicare cuts becomes even sharper:

Supporters of this provision say that it will allow us to save funds in Medicare without cutting care. They say that the Board can stop unnecessary tests or overly costly treatments that do not help the patients. But opponents say that it will lead to rationing of Medicare treatment. They say the Board would ban the most effective medicines to treat cancer, for example, because they are too expensive and might stop the elderly from getting hip replacements or heart bypasses. In view of these arguments, do you agree or disagree with this aspect of Obama’s legislation?

Agree: 30 percent. Disagree: 57 percent.

Voters agree by 56-20 that “Romney and Ryan would not change Medicare for current beneficiaries or for people who are now over 55.” And, by 25-60, they reject the statement that “Romney and Ryan would end Medicare and leave the elderly without a good alternative.”

By 48-33, voters agree that “President Obama has not proposed any real long-term fix for Medicare,” although by 63-18 they agree that “In a few years, Medicare will exhaust its trust fund and will go bankrupt unless we enact changes and reforms.”

But Romney still has some selling to do. Only 38 percent agreed and 31 percent disagreed that “Romney will always allow the elderly to stay in traditional Medicare. He will just offer a voucher system that will have more attractive alternatives.”

In evaluating the healthcare and Medicare issue, voters feel that high medical malpractice costs play a key role in driving up costs. By 63-20, they agree that “the abuse of medical malpractice lawsuits is a big reason medical costs are so high.” By 57-37, they support Romney’s proposals to “curb medical malpractice litigation,” agreeing that it “will save billions and extend the life of Medicare.”

Tomorrow, I’ll discuss the survey’s findings on the economy, Obama’s possible second-term plans, Bain Capital, Romney’s taxes and the negative campaigning on both sides.

Morris, a former adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of 2010: Take Back America — A Battle Plan and Outrage, Fleeced and Catastrophe. To get all of his and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email or to order a signed, advanced copy of his latest book Revolt!, go to dickmorris.com.