By Elise Viebeck - 09/27/12 04:27 PM EDT
President Obama maintains a 20-point advantage over Mitt Romney on Medicare, and his signature healthcare law is more popular than it has been in years, according to a new survey.
September's Kaiser Health Tracking Poll had mostly good news for Obama, but this was tempered by one finding — that two in three seniors believe the healthcare law directly cuts Medicare benefits. A frequent attack line from Romney, the "cuts" claim points to the law's $716 billion in reductions to Medicare provider payments.
Overall, the poll found that 45 percent of U.S. adults have a favorable view of the healthcare law, while 40 percent have an unfavorable view.
Kaiser also found that Republican plans for Medicare could find traction with non-seniors, though the party faces an uphill battle with Obama to claim more credibility on healthcare overall.
Fifty-five percent of U.S. adults believe Medicare should stay as it is today, while 37 percent back the GOP's idea of partially privatizing the program with a voucher system, the poll found.
The so-called premium-support model for Medicare is anathema to many seniors because it could increase their personal healthcare spending.
But for adults under age 54, Kaiser found more openness to the idea. Forty-one percent of younger Democrats back premium-support reforms for Medicare, compared with 44 percent of younger independents and 54 percent of younger Republicans.
Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul RyanPaul RyanTrump, Clinton intelligence briefings likely to start next week Clinton maps out first 100 days Why a bill about catfish will show whether Ryan's serious about regulatory reform MORE (R-Wis.), have made premium-support reforms for Medicare a centerpiece of their campaign.
The two argue that changes are necessary to ensure the program exists for future generations. About 7 in 10 adults agree with this perspective, Kaiser found, with 36 percent saying Medicare needs "major" changes to become sustainable and 32 percent saying it needs "minor" changes.
But acknowledging that change is coming doesn't mean Americans trust Romney and Ryan to oversee it.
The poll found Obama with a 20-point lead over Romney, 52 to 32 percent, on who is more trustworthy to determine Medicare's future. And when asked who is more fit to cut Medicare spending, respondents picked Obama over Romney by 14 points, 54 and 40 percent, and over Ryan by 17 points.
The survey was conducted Sept. 13-19 and has an overall margin of error of 3 points.