The contentious congressional talks on a debt reduction deal continue to drag on. Conservatives have doubled and tripled down on their determination to cut spending as much as possible while doing absolutely nothing to raise government revenues. They are particularly licking their chops about cutting the so-called entitlement programs—Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They want to cut benefits, reduce eligibility, and increase costs to recipients. What does the public think about this particular conservative crusade?
Not much. Not much at all. A just-released Pew poll documents the extent of public opposition. The poll asked respondents what is more important, reducing the budget deficit or keeping Medicare and Social Security benefits as they are. By an overwhelming 60-32 margin the public prefers to keep Medicare and Social Security as they are.
The public is also opposed to increasing the health care costs Medicare recipients are responsible for. By 61-31, the public believes people on Medicare are already paying enough of their health care costs.
Nor does the public see Medicaid benefits for low-income recipients as a legitimate target. By 58-37, they say that low-income people should not have their benefits taken away, rather than agreeing that states should be able to cut back on Medicaid eligibility to deal with budget problems.
Conservatives may have succeeded in shifting the Washington conversation away from the economy and toward the alleged need to strike a debt reduction deal as quickly as possible. But they have apparently not succeeded in convincing the public that slashing Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security has to be part of any such deal. Conservatives, if they have any sense, will back off on this one.
Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. To learn more about his public opinion analysis go to the Media and Progressive Values page and the Progressive Studies program page of our website.