WASHINGTON -- Most Americans say go ahead and raise taxes if it will save Social Security benefits for future generations. And raise the retirement age, if you have to.
Both options are preferable to cutting monthly benefits, even for people who are years away from applying for them.
Those are the findings of a new Associated Press-GfK poll on public attitudes toward the nation's largest federal program.
Social Security is facing serious long-term financial problems. When given a choice on how to fix them, 53 percent of adults said they would rather raise taxes than cut benefits for future generations, according to the poll. Just 36 percent said they would cut benefits instead.
The results were similar when people were asked whether they would rather raise the retirement age or cut monthly payments for future generations -- 53 percent said they would raise the retirement age, while 35 percent said they would cut monthly payments.
"Right now, it seems like we're taxed so much, but if that would be the only way to go, I guess I'd have to be for it to preserve it," said Marge Youngs, a 77-year-old widow from Toledo. "It's extremely important to me. It's most of my income."
Social Security is being hit by a wave of millions of retiring baby boomers, leaving relatively fewer workers to pay into the system. The trustees who oversee the massive retirement and disability program say trust funds will run out of money in 2033. At that point, Social Security will collect only enough tax revenue to pay 75 percent of benefits, unless Congress acts.
Lawmakers from both political parties say there is a good chance Congress will address Social Security in the next year or two -- if the White House takes the lead. But so far, Social Security has not played a big role in the presidential campaign.
The AP-GfK poll was conducted Aug. 16-20 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.