A new USA Today/Gallup poll finds the most Americans do not support broad cuts in Social Security, either by raising the retirement age or the payroll tax.
Oddly, that news is buried in the second-to-last paragraph of the USA Today article of the poll, and is not even mentioned in the Gallup.com write-up.
Instead, the USA Today headline reads “Poll: Faith in Social Security system tanking.” Gallup.com’s is similar: “Six in 10 Workers Hold No Hope of Receiving Social Security.”
The implication, directly fed in both of the those, is that the public is prepared to accept drastic changes to Social Security. The USA Today leans on a prominent deficit hysteric to write:
Well-informed or not, public attitudes could affect the debate over what to do about Social Security, a subject that is likely to be raised when President Obama’s deficit commission delivers its report in December.
“It makes it easier to make some of the changes that we are inevitably going to have to make,” says Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “We could make changes and still have people collecting more in benefits than they’re expecting to see.”
Similarly, Gallup.com’s Frank Newport argues:
Younger Americans are most pessimistic, which could suggest somewhat paradoxically that if policymakers reduce Social Security benefits in the long run, Americans will not be as angry as might be thought, given their low expectations.
But all those poll numbers tell us is people are worried about deep Social Security cuts, not that they support deep Social Security cuts.
Further, the poll shows support for the sort of mild tweak that is all that is needed to strengthen Social Security over the long-run. As USA Today did get around to mentioning, “imposing the payroll tax on all the wages of higher-income workers” is one of the only proposed reforms that “command[s] majority support”.
That’s the actual news from this poll. The fact that the USA Today and Gallup buried such news is part of the reason why we continually get poll numbers that show how worried people are about receiving Social Security benefits.