While the vast majority of Americans age 50 and older say the federal budget deficit is a big problem, almost that same majority strongly oppose using cuts to Social Security or Medicare benefits to reduce that debt, according to a new AARP survey.
Opposition to reducing either Social Security or Medicare benefits transcended party lines in the survey. Among all respondents age 50-plus, 85 percent strongly oppose cutting Social Security and the same percentage strongly oppose decreasing Medicare benefits to reduce the federal deficit. The survey also found that 87 percent of Democrats, 79 percent of independents and 88 percent of Republicans strongly oppose cutting Social Security. When asked about Medicare, 87 percent of Democrats, 80 percent of independents and 86 percent of Republicans said they strongly oppose reducing that program's benefits.
Among all respondents, 87 percent said the federal deficit is a big problem, with 56 percent viewing it as a “very big” problem and another 31 percent saying it is a “moderately big” problem. More Republicans see the federal debt as a big problem (99 percent) than Democrats (73 percent) and independents (87 percent).
According to AARP research, nearly half (49 percent) of all Social Security recipients over age 65 rely on the program's benefits for at least half their income. And about a quarter of Social Security beneficiaries over age 65 live in families that rely on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their income.
Social Security and Medicare were particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic, with the former being a stable source of income for more than 34 million older households and the latter providing critical health care coverage to more than 62 million enrollees, according to AARP research.
The AARP survey, which was conducted among 1,016 people age 50 and over from April 22 through April 26, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent. The survey was fielded soon after legislation was reintroduced in Congress that would establish small “rescue committees” whose job would be to propose changes to Social Security and Medicare as well as federal highway programs.