By 88 percent to 8 percent, Americans 18 or older oppose substantial cuts in Medicare to reduce the federal deficit, according to a new Gallup survey released yesterday.
The survey, sponsored in June by the Federation of American Health Systems, which represents for-profit hospitals, also found that 70 percent of the respondents believed raising taxes on high-income people; on alcohol, tobacco and gasoline; and on businesses that create pollution would be "excellent" or "good" ways of reducing the deficit.
Half of those surveyed thought cutting defense would be an excellent or good way to cut the deficit, but 43 percent disagreed.
In addition to opposing Medicare cuts, 65 percent of those surveyed believed the proportion of gross national product spent on all U.S. health care should be increased over the 11 percent level now in effect. On average, the favored proportion was 19.9 percent.
The survey also suggested most Americans would be willing to spend more than the 6 percent of family income they now spend on health. While 29 percent felt the figure should be under 6 percent, 51 percent thought it should be from 6 percent to 10 percent, and 7 percent felt it should be higher.
The survey, involving 1,014 randomly selected persons whose age, race, sex, income and education closely parallel national patterns, illustrates why President Bush and congressional leaders are having a hard time reaching agreement on ways to cut the federal deficit.
While Medicare is a favorite target of some government budget-cutters -- a candidate for as much as $5 billion in cuts -- it is an extremely popular program, and some in Congress fear large cuts could bring a political backlash. On the other hand, raising tax rates for the well-to-do, which the survey suggests has some popular support, is exceedingly unpopular with many in Congress and with Bush, although his current position is that all proposals should be considered.