Social Security: Survey Reveals Age and Status Within Program Drastically Affect Views on Funding

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While U.S. lawmakers debate how (and even whether) Social Security should be changed, the vast majority of Americans have a favorable opinion of the program, and more than half say it should get more funding, according to a new YouGov poll. Not surprisingly, older Americans are especially supportive of it.

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The survey of 1,000 Americans, released on Feb. 8, found that more than three-quarters (76%) of respondents have a “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable” view of Social Security and Medicare. That made them two of the most popular of eight programs YouGov recently analyzed. The others were Medicaid, unemployment benefits, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and Women, Infants and Children (WIC) benefits.

A majority of Americans (57%) said Social Security should be given more funding (most funding comes through payroll taxes). About one in five (21%) want its funding to remain at current levels, and only 11% want its funding reduced (7%) or eliminated (4%). The rest had no opinion. For Medicare, 53% of respondents support more funding, while 23% think it should stay at current levels. Another 13% want Medicare funding reduced (8%) or cut entirely (5%).  

Responses varied according to age. Nearly nine in 10 (88%) of respondents 65 and older have a favorable opinion of Social Security — the highest of all age groups. That percentage goes down incrementally the younger you get. About three-quarters (76%) of those ages 45 to 64 have a favorable opinion of the program, while 72% of those ages 30 to 44 have a favorable opinion. Around two-thirds (67%) of those ages 18 to 29 have a favorable opinion.

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There is also a gap along political lines. About two-thirds of Democrats (66%) said they want Social Security to receive more funding vs. 54% of Republicans. In terms of their general opinion of the program, 83% of Democrats have a favorable opinion of Social Security vs. 74% of Republicans and 72% of independents.

The poll was taken during a period of uncertainty surrounding the future of Social Security. Some Congressional Republicans have proposed cutting monthly benefits, sunsetting the program or raising the full retirement age in response to reports that one of the trust funds that helps finance Social Security will run out of money by the middle of next decade.

However, U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy recently said the GOP “won’t touch Medicare or Social Security” in current debt-ceiling negotiations. Former President Donald Trump also has warned Republicans in Congress against cutting even “a single penny from Medicare or Social Security.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden said in his State of the Union address this week that “if anyone tries to cut Social Security … I will stop them.”

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A separate The Economist/YouGov Poll found that a proposal being considered by House Republicans to cut funding for Social Security and Medicare programs would not be supported by most Americans or Republicans.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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