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University of Iowa News Release


April 22, 2011

Hawkeye Poll: Majority of Americans supports Social Security reform

President Obama has recently alluded to changing Social Security benefits to balance the budget, and a national University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today suggests most Americans support such a move.

Nearly nine out of 10 respondents supported at least one reform, and two-thirds supported at least two reforms.

Of the five possible reforms proposed, two received majority support: half supported increasing the retirement age by up to three years, and 55 percent supported raising the income ceiling on Social Security taxes. Nearly half (48 percent) supported increasing the payroll tax by 2 percent.

Some proposed reforms would be much less popular, according to the poll. Seventy-eight percent opposed a decrease in benefits, and 60 percent opposed decreasing the cost-of-living adjustment.

"Americans appear willing to compromise on some aspects of Social Security reform if the right proposals are put forth," said Fred Boehmke, faculty advisor to the Hawkeye Poll and associate professor of political science in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Hawkeye Poll of 867 respondents was conducted by phone April 4-11, and the margin of error for the full sample is plus or minus 3.3 percent. Topline results are available at:

The poll revealed important differences across generations, and across parties.

Nearly 60 percent of Democrats and half of Independents support increasing the payroll tax, but 68 percent of Republicans oppose such an increase. A majority of Democrats (66 percent) and Independents (60 percent) also support raising the income limit on Social Security taxes, but only 40 percent of Republicans would like to see that happen. In contrast, 64 percent of Republicans support increasing the retirement age while many Democrats (48 percent) and Independents (47 percent) oppose this option.

Younger Americans were more supportive of increasing payroll taxes. That option was supported by 53 percent of people ages 18 to 34 and 57 percent of those 35 to 54. Only 30 percent of respondents in the 55 to 69 age range and 33 percent of those older than 70 support such a move.

Older respondents were more supportive of raising the retirement age. Fifty-eight percent of people 70 or older and 50 percent of those ages 55 to 69 supported a three-year increase in the retirement age. But only 42 percent of 35- to 54-year-olds and 40 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds support that option.

Of the respondents, 30 percent were Democrat, 29 percent were Republican and 33 percent were Independent. Forty-nine percent considered themselves moderate, while 17 percent self-identified as liberal, and 35 percent as conservative. Reported results are weighted by state population and age.

The poll was conducted by the Hawkeye Poll Cooperative, comprised of UI faculty and students in political science, with the cooperation and facilities of the Iowa Social Science Research Center, directed by UI Sociology Professor Kevin Leicht. The Social Security questions were written with UI undergraduates in an independent study course. The poll is a teaching, research and service project of the UI Department of Political Science. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Office of the Provost fund the poll.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Paul Skinner, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-3381,; Nicole Riehl, University News Services,, 319-384-0070; Frederick Boehmke, Hawkeye Poll, 319-335-2342,