POLITICS
08/11/2010 10:38 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Public Opposes Cutting Social Security To Trim Deficit: New Poll

Social Security turns 75 this week and remains an intensely popular program with voters of all ages, who strongly oppose cutting it to reduce the deficit, according to a new survey paid for by AARP and conducted by GfK Roper.

The poll, which was provided exclusively to HuffPost, finds that 85 percent of adults oppose cutting Social Security to reduce the deficit; 72 percent "strongly oppose" doing so.

Numbers like that simply don't appear in surveys of almost any other national issue that is subject to debate.

In fact, the AARP survey turns conventional wisdom about taxes on its head: half of all non-retired adults said that they would be willing to pay higher payroll taxes to ensure that Social Security will be there for them; 57 percent of adults under 50 would be willing to pay such a tax.

A bipartisan commission set up by President Obama is currently examining Social Security in the context of deficit reduction, with a vote on the panel's recommendations scheduled for the lame duck session of Congress, fueling fears of a midnight raid on the program's trust fund.

The strong support for the program isn't ideological but personal and visceral. Cutting Social Security would bring real pain, survey respondents said. Just shy of two-thirds say that their family would be hit hard if Social Security were cut. Eighty percent of Americans say that Social Security alleviates the financial burden of taking care of parents. Prior to the enactment of Social Security, the elderly consistently drained the savings of their children in their waning days or were shipped off to homes known as "poor houses" -- a phrase that survives today as a cliché disconnected from its original use.

The survey found that support for the program is intense even among those who said they aren't confident that it will survive -- a reasonable conclusion, given the hysteria and deception involved in the debate.

The anti-Social Security propaganda is having an effect, the poll found: Only 21 percent of respondents knew that if the trust fund is exhausted, the program will still be able to pay out benefits at a slightly reduced level.

GfK Roper surveyed 1,200 adults aged 18 or older. A total of 781 respondents were not retired and 419 were retired.

The survey can be found here.