To:        Interested Parties
From:    Lake Research Partners
Re:        Voters Oppose Chained CPI       

Date:     April 15, 2013

As Washington continues budget discussions, some have suggested changing Social Security by tying cost of living increases (COLA’s) to a Chained CPI, which uses a different measure of inflation than currently used to calculate COLAs.

Working with the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, we have asked voters their views on this several times over the past few years and they consistently strongly oppose the idea, and view it as a cut to Social Security Benefits.  In 2011 we asked the following:

“Currently, Social Security benefits increase to adjust for inflation in the price of goods and services that occurred over the year. This annual increase is known as a cost of living adjustment, or COLA. Congress is now considering a proposal to reduce the federal deficit by reducing COLA increases for beneficiaries now and in the future.  Do you support or oppose this proposal?”

Majorities of voters across party lines strongly opposed this proposal.  Overall, 72 percent of voters opposed reducing COLA’s, including 59 percent who strongly oppose, while just 22 percent favor.  By party:

. Democrats: 74 percent oppose, 64 percent
. Independents: 73 percent oppose, 56 percent
. Republicans: 70 percent oppose, 57 percent

Further, 54 percent of voters agreed that “inflation is higher for seniors because they spend more of their money on health care costs which have been rising faster than other costs.  This so-called minor technical change is really a cut in Social Security benefits that hurts people who depend on Social Security by making it harder for them to make ends meet.

Voters do not believe in making changes to Social Security to address the deficit. Our election poll in November 2012 provided a very clear picture of what changes voters support and what they do not in the context of budget negotiations aimed to reduce the deficit.

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 didn’t 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.


Voters strongly oppose other changes that would reduce benefits to either program as part of budget negotiations to reduce the deficit. For Social Security:


. 71 percent oppose reducing benefits for those earning more than $60,000 or more today when they retire, including 61 percent who strongly oppose. Opposition by party: 76 percent of Democrats, 66 percent of Independents, 66 percent of Republicans.

. 59 percent oppose raising the retirement age to 69, including 53 percent who strongly oppose.

Opposition by party: 65 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of Independents, 50 percent of Republicans.

As the President and Congress negotiate over the coming weeks, they should know that voters have very clear preferences when it comes to potential changes to Social Security. Voters across party lines support gradually lifting the cap on taxable wages and strongly oppose raising the retirement age, means testing benefits, or cutting benefits through changing the COLA formula.


Chained CPI

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and Lake Research Partners designed a survey that was administered by Caravan in an omnibus survey conducted by telephone using professional interviewers.  The survey reached a total of 1,000 adults 18 years of age and older nationwide in the continental United States.  The survey was conducted from November 10-13, 2011.  Completed interviews were weighted by four variables: age, sex, race and census region to ensure reliable and accurate representation of the total population, 18 years of age and older.  The margin of error is +/- 3.1 percent. 

Raising the Cap/Retirement Age/Means Testing

The National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare and Lake Research Partners designed and administered a pre-election and election night omnibus survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers.  The survey reached a total of 1,200 likely, registered voters nationwide.  The sample consisted of 1,000 interviews among voters who were reached on landline phones and 200 interviews among voters reached on cell phones.  The survey was conducted November 4th through November 6th, 2012.

Telephone numbers for the base sample were drawn from an RDD sample and the cell phone sample was drawn from a listed sample.  The sample was stratified geographically based on the proportion of likely voters in each region.  Data were weighted to reflect the aggregated Presidential vote as reported in the 2012 exit polls, as well as by gender, party identification, marital status, race, and census region.  The margin of error at the 95% confidence interval is +/- 2.8 percentage points.