The Washington Post

Poll: Middle-class pain necessary, but widely unpopular

More than eight in 10 Americans say the middle class will have to make financial sacrifices to reduce the nation’s budget deficit, but about as many oppose tax increases on middle-income families and broad-based entitlement cuts, according to a new Washington Post-Bloomberg News poll.

Some approaches to deficit reduction, however, are popular: Most Americans support raising taxes on wealthy families, and a slim majority backs reducing military spending as a way to shave the burgeoning budget gap.

Social Security and Medicare benefits cuts — when described as blanket reductions — are enormously unpopular across the political spectrum. At least-three quarters of Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, moderates and independents oppose cuts to either program. And while younger Americans are more supportive of cuts to both programs, fewer than a quarter of any age group supports such cuts.

While heavy majorities oppose across-the-board cuts to Medicare and Social Security, a July Post-ABC poll found much higher support for targeted cuts, particularly those that would affect the wealthy. For example, two-thirds of Americans backed raising Social Security taxes for people making more than $107,000 a year, and 61 percent supported raising Medicare premiums for wealthy retirees.

In the new poll, military spending cuts draw a decidedly partisan verdict. Six in 10 Democrats and 58 percent of independents support reducing military spending, but that drops to 34 percent of Republicans. And while two-thirds of liberals favor military cutbacks, barely four in 10 ideological conservatives say the same.

Party and ideology also play a major role in support for tax hikes on the wealthy. While eight in 10 Democrats and two-thirds of independents support raising taxes for Americans earning $250,000 or more, that drops to 53 percent among Republicans. Conservative Republicans split about evenly on the issue: 49 percent in support, and 46 percent opposed.

Read the full poll results.

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Scott Clement is a survey research analyst for The Washington Post. Scott specializes in public opinion about politics, election campaigns and public policy.


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