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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 02/23/2009

High Public Doubt Soc. Sec. & Medicare Will Provide

Few Americans are "very confident" that Social Security and Medicare are in shape to provide benefits throughout their retirements, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, adding a lack of public trust to the problems today's White House summit must confront as it considers the country's future financial obligations.

Just 11 percent of those surveyed said they are sure Social Security will be able to pay their full benefits; when it comes to Medicare, just 8 percent who are very confident the system will provide adequate health care coverage. More are "somewhat confident," but even combined, confidence is the minority viewpoint about both programs.

Senior citizens -- already covered by these bedrock federal programs -- are generally confident both will be able to meet their needs, but those not yet age-eligible are far less sanguine about their prospects. Among those aged 65 years and up, 78 percent are very or somewhat confident Social Security will last throughout their retirements and 67 percent are that confident in Medicare. Those numbers crash to 31 percent for both programs among those aged 18 to 64, and the proportions "very confident" among this group drops below one in 10.

While age is big dividing line on public confidence about the federal programs, concern about the deficit is not. Those who are worried about the current federal accounts imbalance are no more concerned about Social Security and Medicare than are those who are less anxious about the deficit.

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By  |  10:30 AM ET, 02/23/2009

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