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Public Opinion Snapshot: The Public’s Priorities for Government

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The public is undoubtedly frustrated with the way government is working, especially its seeming inability to turn around the economy. Conservatives think that means the public shares their appetite for deep cuts in Medicare, Social Security, and every other program that helps the nonrich in our society. Wrong again. The latest Pew poll provides abundant evidence of just how off conservatives are.

Respondents were asked to evaluate how much help the federal government provides for different groups. By 60-6 the public said that older people don’t get enough help rather than too much. They rendered similar verdicts about the middle class (58-7), children (57-8), and poor people (57-18).

In stark contrast, 64 percent of the public thought the federal government provided too much help to wealthy people, compared to just 8 percent who thought they didn’t get enough help.

do you think the government should older people, the middle class, children, and the poor more?

In the same poll (are you listening, super committee?) 58 percent thought it was more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are, rather than take steps to reduce the budget deficit (35 percent).

should we cut the deficit keep social security and medicare how they are?

The data are clear: Conservatives should not confuse public frustration with government with support for their cut-all-social-programs-and-protect-the-rich approach. That strategy has been, and remains, deeply unpopular.

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. 

To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

Print: Liz Bartolomeo (poverty, health care)
202.481.8151 or

Print: Tom Caiazza (foreign policy, energy and environment, LGBT issues, gun-violence prevention)
202.481.7141 or

Print: Allison Preiss (economy, education)
202.478.6331 or

Print: Tanya Arditi (immigration, Progress 2050, race issues, demographics, criminal justice, Legal Progress)
202.741.6258 or

Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues,, faith)
202.478.5328 or

Print: Beatriz Lopez (Center for American Progress Action Fund)
202.741.6255 or

Spanish-language and ethnic media: Rafael Medina
202.478.5313 or

TV: Rachel Rosen
202.483.2675 or

Radio: Sally Tucker
202.481.8103 or


This is part of a regular column: Public Opinion Snapshot

For more from the same column, click here