A social security card on a bed of money. 401kcalculator.org/Flickr

Social Security is sometimes described as the “third rail of American politics.”

It got this name in the 1980s because it was so popular among both Republicans and Democrats that if any politician dared to “touch” Social Security and cut it substantially, the politician’s career would metaphorically “die.” 

More than thirty years later, Social Security is still extremely popular among the American public. A recent AARP poll found that 96% of Americans said Social Security was an important government program. 

In addition to bipartisan support for the program, Americans across the political spectrum also share some pessimism about the future of Social Security. A survey from Pew found that 84% of Americans who were not retired said that when they are ready to retire, Social Security will provide benefits at reduced levels or no benefits at all. 

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Finally, Democrats and Republicans agree with each other on some reforms to Social Security, including increasing certain revenues and reducing some benefits for younger or wealthier Americans.

From Common Ground of The American People (survey published in August 2020)

  • 88% of Americans agreed raising the cap on income subject to the Social Security payroll tax cap from $117,000 to $215,000, including 92% of Democrats and 84% of Republicans
  • 79% of Americans agreed raising the retirement age to at least 68 years old over a 10-year period, including 81% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats.
  • 76% of Americans supported reducing benefits for the top 25% of lifetime earners, including 81% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans.
  • 75% of Americans agreed on raising the payroll tax rate from 6.2% to at least 6.6%, including 80% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans.

From AARP (survey conducted July 14-27, 2020)


  • 96% of Americans said Social Security was either the most important government program or an important one compared with other government programs, including 99% of Democrats and 93% of Republicans.
  • 89% of Americans said that it would be unfair to people who are retired or near retirement to make major changes to Social Security that would affect them.
  • 88% of Americans said that Social Security provided financial security for all American; without it, the people who count on it most would really suffer.
  • 81% of Americans said that they somewhat relied on Social Security payments or substantially relied or planned to rely on those payments.

From GALLUP (survey conducted April 1-14, 2020)

  • 88% of Americans said that Social Security will at least be a minor source of their income when they retire.

From Pew Research Center (survey conducted December 11-23, 2018)*

  • 84% of Americans who were not retired said that when they are ready to retire, Social Security will provide benefits at reduced levels or no benefits.
  • 74% of Americans agreed that no reductions should be made to Social Security in the future, including 78% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans.
  • 72% of Americans said that 30 years from now, adults ages 65 and older will be less prepared financially for retirement.
  • Only 3% of Americans said that it would definitely not happen that most Americans will have to work into their 70s to have enough resources to retire by 2050.

*All Democrats and Republicans in the surveys include leaners.

From National Academy of Social Insurance (survey published in 2014)

  • 85% of Americans said that Social Security is more important than ever to ensure that retirees have a dependable income.
  • 83% of Americans said that it is critical to preserve Social Security even if it means increasing the Social Security taxes paid by wealthy Americans.
  • 81% of Americans said that they don’t mind paying Social Security taxes because it provides security and stability to millions of retired Americans, disabled individuals, and the children and widowed spouses of deceased workers, including 87% of Democrats and 72% of Republicans.

Hyria Stuart is a college student currently studying in Beijing. He majors in social work and serves as a political research assistant (American/international politics) at Boston College while planning to pursue a graduate degree (Public Administration/Policy) in the U.S. He has been interning as a policy analyst and editor since April 2020, focusing on nonpartisan proposals seeking to bring Americans together. He helped re-elect Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) in 2020 as a campaign intern. Hyria has published in “Raise the Voices.” His political bias is Lean Left.

This piece was edited by Managing Editor Henry A. Brechter (Center bias), and was reviewed by James Coan (Center bias) of Braver Angels. Correspondence can be directed to james@allsides.com.