Whit Ayres, March 9 (Washington Post)

Whit Ayres’s comments on the economy:

“What matters a lot more than the specific unemployment rate is what voters feel in their communities and in the lives of their families,” GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. “Focus groups demonstrate that while people feel the economy is marginally better, that it is still very weak, and that the president’s policies have done little or nothing to generate the kind of growth that we have historically been used to coming out of a recession.”

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The Right Way To Talk About Entitlements

Published on March 30, 2011 | Resurgent Republic | Jon McHenry

Much of our most recent survey focused on budget issues.  Two questions specifically touched on entitlements, and together make a powerful point about how conservatives can talk about entitlements while maintaining support among a majority of voters.

The first question puts the conservative discussion of entitlements in the context of budget deficits:

Congressman A says we should not balance the budget on the backs of our seniors and the poor.  We need to cut back federal spending, but Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid should be off limits. 

Congressman B says we will never get the deficit under control without dealing with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid,  because those three programs make up more than half of all federal domestic spending.

In this framing, voters agree with Congressman A by a 53 to 41 percent margin.  Independents agree with Congressman A by a similar margin, 51 to 43 percent, with Democrats agreeing by a 71 to 23 percent margin.  Republicans agree with Congressman B by a 59 to 35 percent margin.  Women agree with Congressman A by a 60 to 32 percent margin while men agree with Congressman B by a 51 to 45 percent margin.

The second question puts the conservative discussion of entitlements in the context of preserving the programs for the future:

Congressman A says Social Security will not face budget problems until 2037, so we need to focus our attention on our immediate budget problems and leave Social Security alone.  Take Social Security off the table.   

Congressman B says Social Security is in real trouble because of so many retiring baby boomers. We can save Social Security with minor benefit adjustments for people age 55 and under, and we should do that now rather than wait until the program faces a crisis.

In this context, voters overall agree with reform-minded conservatives by a 54 to 39 percent margin, with the same 54 to 39 percent margin seen among Independents.  Republicans agree by a 70 to 23 percent margin while Democrats agree with Congressman A by a 51 to 40 percent margin.  Where there is a split by gender on the first framing of reform, both men (by a 59 to 34 percent margin) and women (by a 50 to 42 percent margin) agree with Congressman B in this context.

American voters are open to entitlement reform, but the emphasis needs to be on preserving the programs for the future rather than addressing current deficits.

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