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47% See Major Changes in Defense, Social Security, Medicare As Necessary to Big Budget Cuts, 36% Don’t

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Most voters know they want to cut government spending in a serious way, but despite the ongoing national budget-cutting debate, they don’t seem to recognize what that’s going to take.

The majority of U.S. federal spending is allotted to national defense, Social Security and Medicare. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 47% of Likely U.S. Voters correctly recognize that it is necessary to make major changes in those areas to make truly significant long-term cuts in government spending. Thirty-six percent (36%) don’t believe big changes in these three areas are needed, while another 17% aren’t sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This marks virtually no change from early April but shows increased voter awareness from February of last year.

The most high-profile plan for changing Medicare that’s currently on the table is the one proposed by Republican Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. That plan, which includes allowing individuals to purchase private health insurance as an alternative and raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67, has been denounced by most Democrats and even has drawn the criticism of Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich.

But despite the attention politicians and pundits are giving Ryan’s plan, public views of it are virtually unchanged from late last month. Twenty-six percent (26%) of voters continue to favor Ryan’s budget proposal, while 34% are opposed to it. The plurality (40%) is not sure what they think of the plan.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on May 21-22, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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