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Poll Finds 3 in 4 Voters Want to Expand Social Security by Taxing the Rich

Republicans are angling to cut Social Security, threatening seniors with poverty or unretirement.

New polling finds that bipartisan majorities of voters support plans to expand Social Security by taxing the rich, showing that the public overwhelmingly backs Democrats’ recent proposals to bring stability and funding to the program.

Polling conducted by Data for Progress last month found that 81 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat support Democrats’ plans to peg Social Security benefits to the cost of living, including 88 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans.

There is also wide support for funding the plan by taxing the rich, as Democrats have proposed; 76 percent of respondents say that they support increasing payroll taxes on people making over $400,000 a year to fund Social Security expansion and ensure the program’s solvency.

Last year, Democrats introduced a bill, named the Social Security 2100, that would provide an immediate bump to Social Security payments and update the program’s cost of living adjustment formula to better match inflationary pressures. The bill would extend the insolvency date of the program to 2038, giving lawmakers five more years past the current date to come up with other funding mechanisms for the popular program.

The bill would raise funds by ensuring that Social Security taxes apply equally to those making over $400,000 a year; currently, the tax stops being collected on wages over roughly $143,000, meaning that people who make more than that pay a smaller proportion of their income into the program than people who make less.

House progressives are advocating for the passage of the bill this week as the program reaches its 87th anniversary. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) introduced a similar bill in June to expand the program, though it proposes higher payment raises and would fully fund the program until 2096.

On the other hand, voters are very concerned about lawmakers cutting Social Security or threatening insolvency. Republicans are currently drumming up support for such cuts among the party, even if their voting base disagrees with that goal.

The poll finds that almost all voters are either very, somewhat or a little concerned about lawmakers reducing Social Security benefits, which would be disastrous for many seniors who already live in poverty or paycheck to paycheck due in part to low Social Security payments. Ninety-three percent of respondents said that they’re concerned about reducing benefits, while 94 percent are concerned about the program’s solvency.

Further, voters don’t want the program to be privatized or the eligibility age to be raised above 62, with 92 percent and 84 percent, respectively, saying that they’re concerned about those issues.

But Republicans have been threatening to take a machete to the program. Earlier this year, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) released a plan for the GOP that would — among other things — end the automatic renewal of all federal programs, including Social Security, forcing Congress to vote to reauthorize them every five years.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) also expressed support for this idea earlier this month, saying that programs like Social Security and Medicare should be subject to an annual vote. This would likely lead to massive cuts to the programs, or, eventually, privatization of the programs, which Republicans have also been threatening to do. Privatization would likely result in large cuts to payments while padding the pockets of wealthy Wall Street investors.

The poll contains good news for Democrats who wish to expand the program, however. Among independent voters who were told that Democrats support expanding the program, 58 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for Democrats. On the other hand, among those who were told that Democrats merely oppose ending the benefits but don’t necessarily support expansion, only 39 percent said they’d be more likely to vote for Democrats.