We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again:  Americans do not support cutting Social Security and Medicare to pay down the debt. This was confirmed, again, in a new poll released by Third Way, an organization backed by Wall Street which promotes cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare as the “centrist” option.  Yet, they’ve chosen to bury that lead in favor of headlines that better fit its mission.  Why? To convince Democratic members of Congress that voters will give them a pass if they cut these vital programs.  While the Third Way polling memo headline states that voters want the President and Congress to “fix” Social Security and Medicare, you have to dig deep into their narrative to also find this line:

“voters indicate that they want these programs fixed to keep them solvent, but not pay down the debt.”

No kidding. 

Unfortunately, Politico took the Third Way bait and reported that this survey was countering:

“surveys showing that Democrats don't want lawmakers to touch entitlements, don't view the debt and deficit as a top priority, and don't favor Obama working with Republicans.” 

The problem is…that’s just spin.  It completely ignores what our poll (and several others) actually reported.  For Third Way that type of “everyone else got it wrong” marketing is critical to their goal of persuading Democrats that the American people won’t punish them if Congress follows Wall Street’s economic prescription and cuts middle-class benefits in the name of deficit reduction. However, it also ignores that fact that the American people understand the difference between making reforms to improve Social Security and Medicare’s long-term solvency and cutting benefits to reduce the deficit.  Using words like “fix” rather than what they really mean, benefit cuts, shows the fix was in on this polling.

We also have to wonder, if the true goal was to prove that every poll ever taken in the past two years is wrong and the American people really do support cutting middle-class benefits, where is the critical polling question that gets to the heart of the Social Security/Medicare/Deficit issue: “Do you support cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits?”  If it was asked it must be among the 52 of 81 questions which haven’t been released in this Third Way poll. Any bets as to why?

Let’s be really clear about what our NCPSSM/Lake Research poll showed.  It showed Americans, of all ages and political parties, do not support cutting Social Security and Medicare as part of this deficit debate:

  • Voters strongly oppose cutting Social Security benefits with 71% opposed to means-testing and 67% opposed to raising the retirement age
  • 64% strongly oppose cutting Medicare benefits for future retirees and 59% oppose cutting payments to Medicare providers want voters support two Social Security and Medicare reforms by overwhelming margins:

Our poll also shows Americans support two Medicare and Social Security reforms by wide margins:

  • On Social Security, voters across party lines support lifting the cap on wages above the current level of $110,100. We know from focus groups that voters see this cap as an unfair loophole that they did not even know existed. Sixty-five (65) percent of voters favor gradually lifting this cap for both employees and employers, including 75 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Independents, and 54 percent of Republicans.
  • On Medicare, overwhelming bi-partisan majorities support allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to bring down the cost of prescription drugs. Eighty-six (86) percent of voters favor this, including 77 percent who strongly favor it. By party, 91 percent of Democrats favor allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies (81 percent strongly favor), as do 85 percent of Independents (75 percent strongly favor), and 81 percent of Republicans (75 percent strongly favor).

Lastly, our poll shows that 85% of those surveyed say Social Security and Medicare were important factors in casting their 2012 vote. 

Ultimately, that is what makes Washington’s fiscal hawks and Wall Street backed groups like the Third Way nervous.  Because even their own polls, no matter how they’re twisted and spun, show the American people do not support cutting Social Security and Medicare as part of this deficit debate.