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65% Say Current Taxes Not Enough to Fund Medicare, Social Security Promises

Most voters consider it essential for taxes to fund all promised Social Security and Medicare benefits and understand that the current level of taxation is not enough to keep those promises. But they're not overly sure they need to pay more taxes to keep those programs going.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 89% of Likely U.S. Voters think it is at least somewhat important to make sure that the Social Security and Medicare trust funds collect enough in taxes to pay for all promised Social Security and Medicare benefits. This includes 66% who say it is Very Important. Just five percent (5%) believe it is not very or not at all important for these funds to collect enough taxes to honor those promises. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But 65% of voters feel that the current level of taxes paid into those trust funds is not enough to fund all the benefits promised today’s workers. Nineteen percent (19%) disagree and think the present level of taxes will cover the promised benefits. Another 16% are not sure.

Voters are more conflicted when ask about the need to raise taxes to keep the two federal retirement programs going the way they are now. Just 29% say it is possible to continue Medicare as it is today without raising taxes, while 47% say it is not possible to do so. But nearly one-in-four voters (24%) aren’t sure.

Similarly, 32% believe it is possible to continue Social Security as it is today without raising taxes. Forty-nine percent (49%) say that’s not possible. Twenty percent (20%) are not sure.

As Congress debates ways to cut the massive federal deficit, the majority of voters now understand that most of the federal budget goes to national defense, Medicare and Social Security. But 64% say any proposed changes in either Social Security or Medicare should be submitted to the American people for a vote before they can become law.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 21, 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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