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Cut the deficit, but not my programs

The majority of Americans think the federal deficit needs to be reduced, according to a new poll from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. They just don’t like many of the ways of doing it.

The survey found that 70 percent of people think the federal budget deficit is a major problem that must be addressed now. Another 23 percent think it’s a major problem, but it can be addressed once the economy improves.

In addition, about 65 percent of people think the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit is through a combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes.

That all sounds good in theory, but in practice it gets a little dicier. A majority of those polled disapproved of most of the concrete proposals for reducing the deficit.

The ones facing the most fervent opposition include taxing employer-provided health insurance, raising the national gasoline tax and reducing federal education and road funding to states. 

Other unpopular measures include raising Medicare contributions, eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction and gradually raising the Social Security retirement age.

Two proposals garnered some support. About two-thirds of people surveyed support a proposal to raise the Social Security contribution cap, and 59 percent support freezing federal worker salaries.

Not everyone surveyed had heard of a bipartisan deficit reduction commission’s proposal for reducing the deficit, which includes many of the specific items the survey respondents were asked about. But nearly half of those who had heard of the proposal disapproved of that as well.

Given how unpopular most deficit reduction strategies are, it’s not surprising that more than half of those surveyed don’t think significant progress will be made toward reducing the deficit in the next five years.

The concerns about the deficit cut across party lines, with Republicans, Democrats and independents all reporting that is a major concern.

The survey of 1,500 adults was conducted in early December.