Romney's running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has been a leading proponent in Congress of allowing workers to divert a portion of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts. Romney has not fully embraced the idea, but Democrats are using it to accuse Republicans of trying to privatize Social Security.
Romney put Ryan on the ticket Aug. 11. The AP-GfK Poll was conducted Aug. 16-20.
About 56 million people get Social Security benefits. Monthly payments average $1,236 for retirees.
The options for fixing Social Security fall into two broad categories — raising taxes or cutting benefits, or some combination of the two. But there are many options within each category. For example, raising the retirement age is a benefit cut for future generations, because they would have to wait longer to qualify.
Retirees now can qualify for full benefits at age 66, a threshold that is rising to 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
In previous polls, most of the options for addressing Social Security scored poorly among the public, which helps explain why Congress hasn't embraced them. But the AP-GfK poll forced people to make a choice: Raise taxes or cut benefits? Raise the retirement age or cut monthly payments?
Democrats, Republicans and independents all favored raising the retirement age over cutting monthly payments. But there was a big divide on raising taxes. Sixty-five percent of Democrats and 53 percent of independents supported higher taxes, compared with just 38 percent of Republicans.
"Raising taxes, especially on the people that provide the jobs for us, is not an option because what you do there, you discourage promoting jobs," said James Taylor, a 68-year-old retiree from Golden, Miss.
But Juan Tellez, a 22-year-old college student in Gainesville, Fla., said he would accept higher taxes if it means preserving benefits, even though he's not very confident Social Security will be around for his generation.
"I think of Social Security as an investment, as a public investment almost, something more communal," Tellez said. "I feel like I would want to invest in that."
The poll involved interviews with 1,006 adults nationwide. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.
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