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A new national poll shows that while most people aren't satisfied with the current performance of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, neither do they want benefit cuts.

The survey, conducted in June by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, found that 60 percent of respondents say it is important to keep Medicare and Social Security benefits as they are. Only about half as many — 32 percent — say it is more important to reduce the federal budget deficit than to maintain the status quo.

The poll reflects a deep ambivalence: The majority of Americans say the programs either need to be completely rebuilt or changed in major ways, while also saying people on Medicare already pay enough for their own medical care. People over 65 are the only age group in which majorities say the programs work well.

Internal divisions are more marked among Republicans than Democrats and independents, the poll found.

Half of Republicans say maintaining benefits is more important than deficit reduction, while 42 percent favor reducing the deficit. Independents favor maintaining the benefits over deficit reduction, 53 percent to 38 percent. Among Democrats, 72 percent view preserving current Social Security and Medicare benefits as more important, compared to 21 percent more concerned about the deficit.

Republicans and Republican-leaning independents also are deeply divided along income and ideological lines. While 63 percent of those with family incomes of $75,000 or more express more concern over the deficit, 62 percent with incomes of $30,000 or less say it is more important to maintain Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are.

Republicans who support tea-party values are more concerned about the deficit than Republicans who disagree with the tea party's goals, 57 percent to 36 percent, the poll shows.

By contrast, the Pew Research Center found that Democrats don't have such internal divisions along income or ideological lines.

The poll of 1,502 adults conducted June 15 to June 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

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Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

A new survey says Americans believe maintaining safety-net benefits is more important than deficit reduction. See the report. •

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