Poll: Persistent Economic Discontent Casts Continuing Political Pall

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Three come closest: Forty-nine percent of Americans support eliminating tax deductions on mortgages of more than $500,000, and on second homes; as many favor reducing Social Security benefits for wealthy retirees; and, as noted, 48 percent back gradually increasing the age at which people can receive full Social Security benefits. While the latter, in particular, may be a surprise, the intensity of sentiment trends negative: just 19 percent "strongly" support the idea, while 35 percent strongly oppose it.

More than half oppose each of the remaining items tested, including reducing defense spending to trim the deficit (52 percent say no), raising the capital-gains tax (54 percent opposed), reducing aid to agriculture (55 percent), reducing Social Security cost-of-living increases (64 percent) and eliminating the tax deduction for children under 18 (65 percent). Least popular of all is raising the federal tax on gasoline by 15 cents a gallon, opposed by 78 percent. (No wonder: Gas prices this week hit their highest in two years.)

In each of these, moreover, "strong" opponents outnumber strong supporters, by margins of anywhere from 12 points (on cutting defense spending) to 54 points (on raising the gas tax).

Other results mark the difficult positioning ahead in dealing with the deficit. While Americans are concerned about it, they also hold other priorities, as evidenced by support for the package of tax cuts and unemployment benefit increases now before Congress (see Monday's report).

Also, many more see Obama, rather than the congressional Republicans as sincere in wanting to reduce the deficit -- a finding in line with views of Obama as more willing to compromise. Yet at the same time, Obama's own approval rating for handling the deficit is a very weak 38 percent, and, as noted, the Republicans lead him by 8 points in trust to handle it. These leave room for either side to prevail in the deficit debate -- if one can find a solution the public will swallow.

METHODOLOGY -- This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Dec. 9-12, 2010, among a random national sample of 1,001 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results for the full sample have a 3.5-point error margin. Click here for a detailed description of sampling error. This survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, Pa.

ABC News polls can be found at ABCNEWS.com at http://abcnews.com/pollingunit

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