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Fiscal Cliff: Americans Want Compromise, Not Conflict

Americans want the leaders of both political parties to compromise on issues that have put the nation at the precipice of the " fiscal cliff," according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Nearly two-thirds of them, the survey shows, want both tax increases and spending cuts to tackle the federal budget deficit.


But that reality check gives way when it comes to specifics. A majority of those surveyed said they oppose raising the eligibility age for Medicare, cutting spending on Medicaid, giving less generous cost-of-living increase adjustments to Social Security beneficiaries and cutting military spending. The most popular option (with 74 percent support)? Raising taxes on the rich.

And while older Americans gave Republican Mitt Romney most of their votes in November, they're now giving President Obama his highest marks in three years. More than half of all Americans 65 and older vote, the survey found, approve of the job he's doing. (A 50 percent approval rating might not sound like a rousing show of confidence, but it's double the 25 percent who approve of the job that Congress is doing.)

Meanwhile, a new nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center shows that older Americans see protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits as being more important than reducing the federal deficit. The margins are lopsided: 61 to 28 percent among Americans 50 to 64, and 66 to 21 percent among Americans 65 and older. And Americans of all ages, when faced with the tradeoff of taking steps to reduce the deficit or keeping Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are now, favor keeping benefits as they are now by a margin of 56 percent to 32 percent.

The online magazine Slate went a step further than both of these surveys in terms of specific tradeoffs. Its poll (which you can try out here) asked a representative sample of 1,000 Americans exactly what they would do to cut $900 billion from the projected federal budget deficit in 2022. "We found," Slate reports, "that on average, people want higher taxes, cuts in government services, and military downsizing - but want to preserve Medicare and Social Security."

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