Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Ryan's Folly Squanders GOP Edge Among Seniors

You would expect that Paul Ryan's much heralded plan to cut taxes for the rich and pay for it by ending Medicare would poll well somewhere in the electorate. Let's look at where Republicans tend do perform best: voters 65 and older. Republicans won the 2010 elections largely on impressive turnout from Seniors, who split for Republicans by 21 points (59-38) in the 2010 midterm elections.. On the other hand, Republican strength in 2010 was largely built from the perception that the Affordable Care Act would diminish the opportunities available to Seniors receiving Medicare, hence the talking point "Keep your government hands off my Medicare." Ryan's Folly promises to replace Medicare, where the government pays for medical care for Seniors, with a voucher system that will not cover the costs of health insurance. The Republican dominance in the Senior vote in 2010 essentially resulted in the realization of the fears that Republicans used to get elected.

Ryan's Folly has destroyed the Republican advantage among Seniors, according to today's Gallup poll on the nation's budget preferences. Only 48% of seniors prefer Ryan's Folly to the President's budget plan, which actually lowers the costs of health care. Ryan's plan to place that health care burden on the backs of individual Americans has cost the Republican party a 20 point lead among their most important demographic group. Meanwhile, Democrats maintain their 20 point advantage among voters aged 18-30, greatly expanding on their actual margin among the young in 2010.

Gallup calls the findings counterintuitive because Seniors prefer Ryan's Folly to President Obama's plan by a small margin. It is true that Ryan's Folly would most immediately damage the pocketbooks of current seniors and the next cohort of seniors, but let's remember that the President's name is toxic among voters over 65, who tend to be much whiter, conservative, and live in socially segregated conditions than the rest of Americans. The President lost the Senior vote in 2008 by 8 points. It is not surprising in the least that Seniors would choose to voice their discomfort with the President in a poll on the budget; it's not like their response is going to actually result in the Senate passing Ryan's Folly.

Budget deliberations take place in the House, and that's where voters' preferences over budgeting are going to be reflected more so than in the Presidential race. This poll is probably best for looking at the change in the mood of Seniors since the 2010 election. The close split among Seniors is far more reminiscent of exit polls from 2008 than the Republican sandbagging of 2010. Ryan's Folly has squandered the Seniors' willingness to put up with Republicans, even if it hasn't made President Obama much more attractive. If this poll accurately reflects the mood of the nation, it's a damn good sign for Congressional Democrats heading into 2012.

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