Published for The Corner at the National Review, August 23, 2012
In its continuing effort to advise Democrats on how to best deceive the public, the New York Times commissioned polls in three swing states — Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin — over the past week and tested a Medicare message for the president. They asked voters this question:
Which of these two descriptions comes closer to your view of what Medicare should look like for people who are now under 55 who would be eligible for Medicare coverage in about ten years? Medicare should continue as it is today, with the government providing seniors with health insurance, OR, Medicare should be changed to a system in which the government would provide seniors with a fixed amount of money toward purchasing private health insurance or Medicare insurance.
They found that about 60 percent of voters in each state wanted the first option, and about 30 percent wanted the second. Given this presentation of the options, it’s actually quite surprising that only 60 percent of voters chose the imaginary Democratic approach over the imaginary Republican one.
As any pollster worth his salt would tell you, the only words that matter in the question used by the Times are the first words of each description: “Medicare should continue as it is today” vs. “Medicare should be changed.” That is the essence of the poll’s deception, since obviously “Medicare should continue as it is today” is not an option, and is not what the Democrats are proposing. Republicans propose to have the program continue as it is for current seniors and near retirees, Democrats propose to have it continue as it is for no one, and both of them want to change it for future seniors. The question is how.