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Activists participate in a rally urging the expansion of Social Security benefits in front of the White House July 13, 2015

Activists participate in a rally urging the expansion of Social Security benefits in front of the White House on July 13, 2015 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Survey Shows US Voters Want Congress to Expand—Not Cut or Privatize—Social Security

83% of likely voters support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security benefits while just 7% support GOP plans to end the program in five years, giving the majority party a golden opportunity to maintain control of the House and Senate.

Kenny Stancil

Voters in the United States overwhelmingly support Democratic proposals to expand Social Security for all recipients to cover higher costs of living and oppose Republican proposals to completely end the federal program—established during the New Deal era to improve economic security for retirees, people with disabilities, and widows and widowers—before the end of the decade.

That's according to a new survey conducted from June 17-21 and published Monday by Data for Progress, which found that a whopping 83% of likely voters support expanding Social Security benefits to keep up with rising costs, including 86% of Democrats, 84% of Republicans, and 79% of independents.

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of likely voters are very concerned about Congress cutting monthly cash transfers for the program's 66 million current beneficiaries, and more than half (53%) are very concerned about lawmakers privatizing Social Security.

Privatization of the program remains unpopular across the political spectrum, with 68% of likely voters—including 75% of Democrats, 70% of Republicans, and 59% of independents—opposed to Wall Street-backed schemes that would facilitate the movement of Social Security benefits from a guaranteed government fund into the volatile stock market.

The findings of the poll should be of interest to President Joe Biden, who is hemorrhaging support among Democratic voters and has come under fire in recent weeks for nominating Andrew Biggs—an American Enterprise Institute senior fellow with a history of backing Social Security privatization—to serve on the independent and bipartisan Social Security Advisory Board.

Social Security Works, a progressive advocacy group, has highlighted Biggs' role in the George W. Bush administration's failed attempt to privatize the program in 2005.

While Biden pledged on the campaign trail to support an expansion of Social Security, he has previously backed slashing the program's benefits. Biden was vice president when former President Barack Obama proposed a "grand bargain" with congressional Republicans that would have included cuts to Social Security.

Last month, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) led the introduction of the Social Security Expansion Act, which would lift the cap on income that is subject to the Social Security payroll tax and boost the program's annual benefits by $2,400.

According to Data for Progress, 76% of likely voters—including 83% of Democrats, 73% of Republicans, and 73% of independents—support imposing, for the first time, payroll taxes on individuals with annual incomes above $400,000 per year to fund an expansion of Social Security benefits. Currently, only those making $147,000 or less are subject to the Social Security payroll tax.

Meanwhile, a little-noticed budget document published last month by the Republican Study Committee (RSC)—a group to which nearly 75% of House Republicans belong—reiterates right-wing myths that the program is headed toward insolvency and calls for raising the retirement age by three months per year through 2040. As a result, people born after 1978 would not be eligible to receive full Social Security benefits until the age of 70.

The RSC's bid to postpone Social Security eligibility, outlined in their so-called Blueprint to Save America, is not even the most extreme GOP proposal on offer, considering what Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), has put forward.

Scott's widely panned 12-point "Plan to Rescue America" proposes hiking taxes on the poorest 40% of U.S. households and sunsetting "all federal legislation" after five years—a move that would eliminate Social Security, Medicare, civil rights laws, and other measures unless Congress actively votes to reauthorize them.

Just 7% of likely voters support ending Social Security in five years, according to Data for Progress, which may help explain why Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to endorse Scott's policy agenda in March.

Nevertheless, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), ranking member of the powerful Senate Budget Committee, said last month during a debate with committee chair Sanders that "entitlement reform is a must," indicating that the GOP is once again laying the groundwork to gut Social Security, Medicare, and more if it regains control of Congress in November's pivotal midterm elections.

Likely voters, when informed that congressional Democrats are proposing to expand Social Security benefits while their Republican counterparts are proposing to swiftly terminate the program, told pollsters that they would be most likely to support a Democratic candidate over a Republican one by a margin of 55 to 31.

This suggests that campaigning on Social Security expansion could help Democrats maintain or even bolster their slim majorities in the House and Senate.


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