WASHINGTON -- They're not buying it. Most Americans say they don't believe Medicare has to be cut to balance the federal budget, and ditto for Social Security, a new poll shows.
The Associated Press-GfK poll suggests arguments for overhauling the massive benefit programs to pare government debt have failed to sway the public. The debate is unlikely to be resolved before next year's elections for president and Congress.
Americans worry about the future of the retirement safety net, the poll found, and 3 out of 5 say the two programs are vital to their financial security. That helps explain why the Republican Medicare privatization plan flopped, and why President Barack Obama's Medicare cuts to finance his health care law contributed to Democrats losing control of the House in last year's elections.
Medicare seems to be turning into the new third rail of politics.
Combined, Social Security and Medicare account for about a third of government spending, a share that will only grow.
The trustees who oversee Social Security and Medicare recently warned the programs are "not sustainable" over the long run under current financing.