With Medicare taking front and center in the presidential race in recent days, a new Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday indicates that GOP proposals to privatize the system remain unpopular among the general public.
According to the survey, 72 percent of American adults have heard either a lot or a little about a voucher-like program that would give seniors credit to purchase their own health care coverage--a proposal similar to that pushed by Paul Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman and now-running mate for Mitt Romney.
Of those who have heard of the idea, 49 percent oppose such a change, while 34 percent favor the entitlement reform. Pew states that the margin is "virtually unchanged from public reactions a little over a year ago," when House Republicans voted on a similar measure as part of the so-called Ryan budget plan. The bill, however, did not pass the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The survey also finds that while Americans place the need to reduce the deficit as a top priority, most would not favor entitlement cuts as a way of balancing the budget. Asked which was more important, 51 percent of respondents said maintaining current Social Security and Medicare benefits, while 33 percent said taking steps to reduce the deficit. Eleven percent said the two were equally important.
The poll also indicates that Romney's selection of Ryan has low support among all Americans, as 28 percent said he was either an excellent or good choice, while 46 percent said he was a fair or poor choice. Among Republicans, 60 percent said he was either an excellent or good choice, while 20 percent said he was a fair or poor pick.
It's important to note that most Americans do not associate Ryan with Medicare reform, according to the survey. Of those who have heard of the proposal, 23 percent linked the idea to Ryan, while 17 percent said it was President Barack Obama's idea. Forty-four percent said they were unaware of who proposed it.
The poll was conducted about a week after Romney announced Ryan as his running mate, a move that injected Medicare as a hot button issue in this year's presidential race. The two campaigns have been engaged in a war of words over Medicare for much of the last 10 days.
Team Romney claims Obama 's health care reform includes more than $700 billion cuts to Medicare, while the Obama campaign contends the Romney argument is misleading and says the figure amounts to savings in health care costs-not cuts. The figure was reported in a Congressional Budget Office analysis that measured the effects of a repeal of the controversial health care legislation.
While the Pew poll shows Ryan with low approval ratings, Vice President Joe Biden is even more unpopular. Twenty-seven percent of respondents said he has done either an excellent or good job as the president's number two, while 56 percent said he does only a poor or fair job. Among Democrats specifically, 51 percent said he has done an excellent or good job, while 36 percent said he has performed poorly or fairly.
The survey was conducted just days after Biden drew fierce criticism over a comment he made about Romney during a campaign speech last week, telling a Virginia crowd that the presumptive GOP nominee's regulatory policies would "put y'all back in chains."
The Pew Research Center questioned 1,005 adults nationwide by telephone between Aug. 16 and Aug. 19. The sampling error is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.