Social Security

Exploring Real Attitudes Toward Entitlement Reform

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The latest Reason-Rupe survey results reveal diverse attitudes toward Social Security and Medicare and towards the potential for reform.

Overwhelmingly, Americans view Social Security and Medicare as "contributive" programs, meaning that they believe that all Americans who contributed should be rewarded by receiving their benefits.

This conceptualization of entitlements as "contributive" rather than "redistributive" was explored and discussed in a previous post. Our findings reveal that a majority of Americans are open to entitlement reform as long as they are guaranteed to receive the money they have already contributed into the two programs.

This also helps potentially explain why 67 percent of Americans oppose raising the retirement age. If a majority of Americans view these programs as contributive and essentially a contract with the government, it explains why they would not want the government to change the terms of the contract for when they start getting their money back.

When asked what the Social Security retirement age should be, results ranged from 65 to 75, with a median of 65.

Nevertheless, Americans favor allowing individuals to opt out of the programs if they choose.

In part, this result is likely driven by the 60 percent of individuals who believe that they are primarily responsible for saving enough money to meet basic expenses in retirement. However, only 43 percent believe they are personally responsible for saving enough money to purchase health insurance in retirement.

Most Americans are also not convinced that they will receive back the money they have already contributed to the Social Security system. Retirees, however, are more confident that they will continue to receive expected benefits, in contrast to those who have not yet retired.

Expectations for Social Security Benefits

Click here for full survey results.

Survey Methods

The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.