LOS ANGELES - Nearly twice as many Americans say it is more important to maintain the benefits from entitlement programs than it is to cut the budget deficit, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press released Thursday, the day President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders met to discuss budget and debt issues.
The poll found that about three of every five Americans said they wanted to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits while 32 percent said it was more important to take steps to reduce the budget deficit. Politically, Democrats across all income levels support maintaining entitlement programs while the GOP is split, with the less affluent being more likely to support keeping the benefits than the rich.
The poll comes as Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, who has been the administration's point man in budget negotiations, sat down with congressional leaders from both parties and both chambers.
According to the Pew poll, Americans strongly back the major entitlement programs. In addition to backing the programs over cutting budget deficits, most Americans also oppose making Medicare recipients more responsible for their health care costs and allowing states to limit Medicaid eligibility. About 61 percent said people on Medicare already pay enough of their own health care costs; 31 percent said they think recipients need to pay more health care costs to make the system financially secure.
On Medicaid, just 37 percent want to allow states to cut back on eligibility rules, while a majority, 58 percent, said low-income people should continue to get Medicaid benefits.