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Only 30% Favor Tax Hikes To Keep Social Security, Medicare Solvent

Voters are closely divided over whether increasing taxes or raising the eligibility age is the best way to keep the government's retirement programs financially afloat.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 30% of Likely U.S. Voters favor raising taxes to make sure the Social Security and Medicare trust funds have enough money to pay all promised benefits. Slightly more (34%) prefer raising the retirement age when those benefits kick in for future generations. Only 15% believe it's better to cut the promised level of benefits. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure which of these options to follow. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Most voters consider it essential for taxes to fund all promised Social Security and Medicare benefits and understand that the current level of taxation is not enough to keep those promises. But they're not overly sure they need to pay more taxes to keep those programs going.

Fifty-five percent (55%) understand that Social Security and Medicare taxes are paid into trust funds that are supposed to be used only for paying Social Security and Medicare benefits. Eighteen percent (18%) don't believe that's true, and 26% more are not sure. Current projections, however, show that both trust funds are in danger of not having enough money to cover future benefits.

In terms of retirement security, 73% of voters believe that making sure the Social Security trust fund is protected and adequately funded is better than getting rid of the fund and having all promised benefits paid out of the federal government's annual budget. Just 10% disagree and think retirees will have more security if Social Security benefits paid out of the annual operating budget. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided. 

Only 22% of voters correctly recognize that all Medicare benefits are currently paid out of the Medicare trust fund. Thirty-five percent (35%) believe some Medicare benefits are already paid out of the government's general operating budget. Forty-three percent (43%) are not sure.

The current full retirement age for Social Security is 66, and 51% of voters oppose a proposal to raise that to 70.  But 60% like the idea of raising the level of income taxable for Social Security.

A plurality (41%) of Democrats prefers raising taxes to make sure the Social Security and Medicare trust funds have enough money to pay all promised benefits. But just 22% of Republicans and 27% of voters not affiliated with either of the parties agree. The latter two groups look more favorably on raising the retirement age for eligibility.

There is little partisan disagreement, however, that making sure the Social Security trust fund is protected and adequately funded will prove more security for retirees than funding all promised benefits out of the government's annual operating budget.

The majority of voters now understand that most of the federal budget goes to just three areas - defense, Social Security and Medicare, but they still want to vote on any proposed changes to the ones that directly impact their retirement.

Medicare and Social Security are big helps to most retired Americans, but one-third of voters don't care much for either of the long-standing government programs.

Last September, only 47% of voters agreed that Social Security is a good deal for working Americans today. Fifty-seven percent (57%) are not very or not at all confident that they will receive all their promised Social Security benefits during their lifetimes.

During the congressional debate prior to passage of the national health care plan in March of last year, 56% of voters opposed the effort to "reduce spending on Medicare by several hundred billion dollars."

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 21, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC

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