Poll: Voters warm to entitlement changes as part of broad debt plan

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When asked if they would support changes to Social Security and Medicare as part of a national debt reduction plan, voters opposed the idea 57 percent to 34. But when told those changes would be gradual and would not affect anyone currently over 60, support nearly flipped to 55 percent versus just 35 percent opposition. And when told those changes would be accompanied by cuts to wasteful government spending and increased revenue caused by closing tax loopholes enjoyed by the wealthy, support climbed further to 61 percent versus 27 percent opposition.

The poll suggests that policymakers could find a way to enact changes to closely-guarded programs that have long been seen as the "third rail" of American politics, but only if paired with other policy changes to get the nation's debt trajectory on a more sustainable path.

On a number of specific policy questions, such as gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare and taxing incomes over $115,000 a year for Social Security, the group also found they garnered a majority of support. The only specific policy proposal to be more opposed than supported by those polled was reducing military spending.

The findings come as Congress yet again is attempting to find a way forward on broad fiscal matters, as the deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt limit also established a budget conference committee instructed to come to an agreement by Dec. 13.

The poll also found that a plurality of likely voters believe reducing the national debt should be Congress's top priority. Thirty-seven percent of those polled identified it as their first choice for lawmakers to address, followed by creating jobs at 28 percent.