Democrats, Republicans and Independents all believe the government is responsible for providing health care to the elderly. Democrats and independents, but not Republicans, believe the government should also provide health care to the poor:
All groups are more likely to favor guaranteed health care for the elderly than for the poor. But the dropoff between the two policies is very different. Democrats by a plus 77% margin favor covering the elderly, but only favor covering the poor by a 52% margin. That's a 25 percentage point gap between covering the elderly and covering the poor. For independents, the falloff is a very similar 28 percentage points. For Republicans, the falloff is 61 percentage points, from a +15 point margin for covering the elderly to a -46 point margin for covering the poor.
The best way to understand this is by grasping the link between ethnocentrism and support for universal entitlements and both opposition to means-tested entitlements. Ethnocentric attitudes among whites, controlling for all other beliefs, correlate with support for universal programs and with opposition to programs for the poor. White racial conservatives favor programs that benefit people like them -- and hey, everybody gets old -- and oppose programs for people unlike them -- the poor being disproportionately non-white, and even more proportionately so in the white imagination.