Times Fronts Pro-Obama Medicare Poll Findings; Other Outlets Focus on Tightening Race Instead

Thursday's New York Times front page included a report by Michael Cooper (pictured) and Dalia Sussman on a new CBS News/Quinnipiac University/New York Times poll of likely voters in the crucial states of Florida, Ohio, and Wisconsin, after Romney's choice as running mate Medicare reformer Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin: "In Poll, Obama Is Given Trust Over Medicare." 

Showing how the same findings can be interpreted in politically slanted ways, the Times even squeezed in a front-page graphic of Obama's superior standing on Medicare in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Wisconsin, but downplayed the tightening of the actual electoral race in Florida and Wisconsin, which was picked up on by other outlets reading the same poll data.

The Romney-Ryan proposal to reshape Medicare by giving future beneficiaries fixed amounts of money to buy health coverage is deeply unpopular in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to new polls that found that more likely voters in each state trust President Obama to handle Medicare.

The Medicare debate was catapulted to the forefront of the presidential campaign this month when Mitt Romney announced that his running mate would be Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, who is perhaps best known for proposing a budget plan, supported by Mr. Romney, to overhaul Medicare to rein in its costs.

After more than a week of frenzied campaigning on the issue, Medicare ranks as the third-most crucial issue to likely voters in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin -- behind the economy and health care, according to new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News polls of the three swing states. The Republican proposal to retool the program a decade from now is widely disliked.

Roughly 6 in 10 likely voters in each state want Medicare to continue providing health insurance to older Americans the way it does today; fewer than a third of those polled said Medicare should be changed in the future to a system in which the government gives the elderly fixed amounts of money to buy health insurance or Medicare insurance, as Mr. Romney has proposed. And Medicare is widely seen as a good value: about three-quarters of the likely voters in each state said the benefits of Medicare are worth the cost to taxpayers.

Not until paragraph seven do readers get a hint of the good news for the Romney-Ryan team picked up by other outlets.

The polls -- the first in this series of swing-state surveys taken since Mr. Ryan joined the Republican ticket -- showed that at least in Mr. Ryan’s home state, he may be helping Mr. Romney. A majority of likely Wisconsin voters said they approved of the way Mr. Ryan has handled his job in Congress, and 31 percent said his selection made them more likely to vote for Mr. Romney, while 22 percent said it made them less likely to do so. The race appears to have tightened a bit in both Florida and Wisconsin in recent weeks.

In Florida and Wisconsin, where Mr. Obama had led Mr. Romney by six percentage points in polls conducted before the selection of Mr. Ryan, the race is essentially tied. Mr. Obama is ahead in Florida by 49 percent to 46 percent and in Wisconsin by 49 percent to 47 percent -- differences within the polls’ margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Mr. Obama retains a six-point advantage in Ohio, where he leads Mr. Romney 50 percent to 44 percent, unchanged from last month’s survey.

The story also noted deep inside that Paul Ryan is favored over Vice President Joe Biden among independent voters.

Interestingly, the two co-sponsors of the Times poll had different takes on what the real news was, downplaying the anti-GOP Medicare findings the Times found so fascinating. CBS News had a neutral take: "Poll: Economy, health care top issues in 3 battleground states," while Quinnipiac University offered this headline: "Ryan Micro-Bump In Florida, Wisconsin, But Not Ohio, Quinnipiac University/CBS News/New York Times Swing State Poll Finds." Yahoo News also found the fact of the race tightening the most interesting finding: "Obama holds lead in Ohio, but slips in Florida and Wisconsin, poll shows."