ABC News/Washington Post Poll: State Budgets vs. Social Security: What's the Real Third Rail?


While cutting police and firefighter positions are unpopular across the board, views on other proposals break down along customary partisan lines. Democrats, liberals and critics of the Tea Party political movement are all significantly more likely to oppose the remaining proposals that involve reductions in the public sector, and less critical of higher taxes.

Conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party supporters are more apt to support public sector cuts, and to oppose tax increases. Independents are a mixed bag, but closer to Republicans than to Democrats on most elements, and especially on taxes.

SOCIAL SECURITY – On Social Security, as noted, a majority of Americans, 53 percent, support collecting taxes on all the money a worker earns, not just the first $107,000. That's similar to what it was in 2005.

Two others come fairly close to half: Forty-six percent support trimming early-retirement benefits, up 10 points from six years ago; and 45 percent support cutting the rate of growth in benefits, up 8 points since 2005.

Among other items, 42 percent favor raising the retirement age for full benefits from 67 to 68 – still short of a majority, but up 9 points from 2005. Just 35 percent favor raising the Social Security tax rate and 32 percent back reducing guaranteed benefits for future retirees; the first is up by a scant 4 points from 2006, but the latter – while still last on the list – is up 12 points.

There are also partisan differences. Compared with their political opposites, Democrats are significantly more apt to support raising taxes and less apt to support cutting benefits. Again independents side more with Republicans, and in fact exceed Republicans in support for trimming Social Security benefits.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone March 10-13, 2011, among a random national sample of 1,005 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. The results from the full survey have a 3.5-point error margin. The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by TNS of Horsham, PA. For the entire methodology and questions, click here.

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