Hello, Congress: Americans want a strong Social Security system

Political polarization is at a historic peak. Americans are divided on gun control, abortion, healthcare and privacy, according to a study released last month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press documenting our increasing ideological rigidity and partisan antipathy.

Then there’s Social Security. The public is worried deeply about the finances of our bedrock retirement and disability program. Pew found just 14 percent of Americans expect to receive their full benefits. And an earlier Pew study found concern is much higher among young people: Roughly half of Gen Xers and Millennials think Social Security won’t have enough money to pay any benefits at all when they retire.

But two-thirds of Americans told Pew that Social Security should be kept as it is – that is, don’t cut benefits. Just a third said benefit cuts should be considered in the future. There’s even relative agreement inside ideological camps: Two-thirds of liberals and 59 percent of conservatives agreed benefits should be maintained at current levels.

“There really wasn’t much of a difference on the issue, as there is on many others,” said Jocelyn Kiley, associate director for research at Pew.

The report is timely, because the most important annual report on the financial health of Social Security likely will be released this month. The Social Security trustees’ report is expected to reiterate last year’s forecast, which shows that the program’s trust fund will be exhausted in 2034. Absent reforms before that time, Social Security would be able to pay only about 75 percent of promised benefits.

Learn more at Reuters Money.