S.C. Republican and GOP-leaning likely voters say the country’s budget deficit and debt are major problems.
But older Republicans do not want their Social Security or Medicare benefits cut to address that problem. Younger Republicans, however, say they are willing to work longer to get those benefits.
That’s according to a new Winthrop University poll of nearly 600 Republicans and Republican-leaning South Carolinians who are registered to vote. The poll, released today, has a 4 percent margin of error.
Winthrop surveyed only Republicans on the issues because their party controls South Carolina’s political system and is about to kick off its 2012 presidential primary season with a debate in Greenville next week.
About a third of the S.C. Republicans and GOP-leaning independents surveyed said the budget deficit/debt was the most important problem facing the country.
But 69 percent of those currently receiving Social Security or Medicare said they would not be willing to have their benefits reduced to deal with the government’s budget woes. More than 23 percent said they would be.
Those not currently receiving the benefits were more willing to help the country balance its financial books. Forty-eight percent do not want their future benefits cut, but 42 percent would be willing to see them cut.
Nearly half of those surveyed who were not yet retired — 47 percent — said they would be willing to have the retirement age raised to 70 in order to get full benefits if the money would be used to address the budget concerns.
The results surprised Scott Huffmon, the Winthrop University professor who conducted the poll.
“We see all of these national polls that show nobody is willing to touch (Medicare and Social Security),” Huffmon said. “It turns out some of those younger Republicans are willing. It’s the older Republicans who are not.”
But those younger people could change their minds as time goes by. “We have no reason to believe that when (younger Republicans) are actually receiving the benefits, they’ll still feel the same way,” Huffmon said.
William Metcalf of Spartanburg County, a retired teacher who just has started getting federal benefits, is in the minority. He said he would be willing to see his benefits cut to help fix the government’s budget and debt woes.
“I am willing as long as other people are willing to cut their entitlements too — like welfare and food stamps,” Metcalf said, adding everyone must be willing to help to get the country’s debt under control. “The debt is going to kill us. If we don’t pay our debt, it’s going to come back to haunt us.”
A recent proposal by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from Seneca, would keep Social Security solvent for generations to come without raising taxes. Graham’s bill would raise the retirement age to 70 by 2032 and reduce benefits for those earning more than $43,000 a year. The biggest cuts would go to those earning substantially more.
President Barack Obama, a Democrat, has said he is not in favor of cutting Social Security benefits. However, it is projected that Social Security will be more than $6 trillion in debt by 2085.
What self-identified S.C. Republicans and independents who lean Republican had to say
Whom would you vote for to be the GOP nominee for president?
Mike Huckabee – 17.8 percent
Not sure – 16.9 percent
Mitt Romney – 16.1 percent
Donald Trump – 9.9 percent
Sarah Palin – 8.6 percent
Newt Gingrich – 8.1 percent
Chris Christie – 6.2 percent
Michele Bachmann – 3.8 percent
Ron Paul – 2.5 percent
Herman Cain – 1.7 percent
Tim Pawlenty –1.7 percent
Haley Barbour – 1.5 percent
Rick Santorum – 1.4 percent
Jon Huntsman – 0.8 percent
Mitch Daniels – 0.6 percent
Gary Johnson – 0.0 percent
Regardless, whom do you expect to be the GOP nominee?
Not sure – 47.4 percent
Romney – 21.4 percent
Huckabee – 8.3 percent
Regardless of whom you support, is your opinion of _____ somewhat or very unfavorable?
Palin – 32.3 percent
Gingrich – 23.1 percent
Romney – 16.5 percent
What’s more important? Beating Obama or a GOP nominee who matches my beliefs?
Match beliefs – 56 percent
Beat Obama – 32.4 percent
How likely do you think it is that Barack Obama will be re-elected?
Not very/not at all – 50.9 percent
Very/somewhat likely – 43.1 percent
Most important issue facing U.S.?
Economy/financial crisis – 33 percent
Budget deficit or debt – 32 percent
Most important issue facing S.C.?
Jobs or unemployment – 23.8 percent
Economy/financial crisis – 22.8 percent