Poll: Budget can be balanced without touching entitlements

A majority of Americans believe the federal budget can be balanced without touching either Social Security or Medicare, a new poll found.

Close to six in 10 in the AP-GfK poll thought Social Security did not need to be cut as the government looked to get its books in order, while 54 percent said Medicare could be left alone. 

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In all, close to half of Americans said they believe the budget can be balanced without rolling back either entitlement program, which account for about a third of federal spending.

The survey was conducted May 5 through May 9; 1,001 adults were interviewed. The margin of error is 4.2 percentage points.

The AP poll comes as Public Policy Polling, a Democratic outfit, found that overwhelming numbers of voters in Minnesota, Missouri, Montana and Ohio do not want Social Security or Medicare cut to help bring down the national debt. All four of those states have Democratic senators up for reelection next year. 

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The Senate is expected to vote this week on the House’s fiscal 2012 budget, which received near-unanimous support from House Republicans and would turn Medicare into a voucher-like system. 

The House budget’s treatment of Medicare is seen as playing a significant role in a close special election in New York for a House seat previously held by a Republican.

According to the AP poll, Americans are about evenly split over whether it is extremely likely they will be able to rely on Social Security or Medicare, somewhat likely or not at all likely. Fewer than two in 10 said the two programs were either not at all or only slightly important to their financial security.

Americans, the poll found, are also more likely to trust Democrats to handle Social Security and Medicare. (The poll found more trust in Democrats for handling the economy, healthcare, taxes and job creation, with a rough split over managing deficits.)

As for the PPP polls, which were commissioned by liberal groups, around seven to eight in 10 voters in the four states opposed cutting Medicare and Social Security to get the budget in order. Smaller majorities opposed cuts to Medicaid for the same purpose.