Public Policy Polling was in the field in four Senate battleground states this month (Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, and Ohio) on behalf of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Democracy For America, MoveOn.org and CREDO Action, testing on key safety net programs, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. These states are key for the Dems, with the reelection of Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Claire McCaskill (MO), John Tester (MT), and Amy Klobuchar (MN) in the offing next year.
The findings should shore up Democratic support of key safety net programs. On Medicare and Medicaid, PPP found:
McCaskill's Missouri shows the largest divide in surveys done by the Democratically friendly Public Policy Polling, especially on Medicare. When asked, "In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Medicare, which is the government health insurance program for the elderly?" just 19 percent of respondents said they would, while an overwhelming 77 percent said they would oppose cuts.
Similarly, 20 percent back cuts in Brown's Ohio, while 76 percent oppose them. In Tester's Montana, it's 24 percent favoring cuts and 71 percent against. Just 26 percent of Minnesotans would want Klobuchar to vote to cut Medicare, while 69 percent say to vote against.
The numbers are almost as sharp on support for cutting Medicaid in all four states: Ohio is 33 percent in favor to 61 percent against; Missouri is 32 percent to 63 percent; Montana is 36 percent to 59 percent; and Minnesota 33 to 62 percent.
The Social Security numbers are just as sharp:
In order to reduce the national debt, would you support or oppose cutting spending on Social Security, which is the retirement program for the elderly?
Ohio: 16% support, 80% oppose
Missouri: 17% support, 76% oppose
Montana: 20% support, 76% oppose
Minnesota: 23% support, 72% oppose
Tester shouldn't be tempted to get all deficit peacocky on this one. His opponent in 2012, Rep. Denny Rehberg, was one of just a few House Republicans to vote against the Ryan budget, presumably because he knew what a toxic proposal it is. It would be foolish in the extreme for Tester to try to run to the right of Rehberg on that one. For Sherrod Brown, this polling shows that his strong and ongoing support of safety net programs is right where he needs to be.
Klobuchar and McCaskill, however, might have some problems. Klobuchar has been making noises about tying the debt ceiling to deficit reduction, a scenario that has thus far been all about cutting those programs.
But by far the Dem who is the most potential trouble on these issues is Claire McCaskill, co-sponsor of a disastrous spending cuts bill that would destroy Social Security and Medicare. She has since vowed to protect Social Security, but also hasn't dropped her support for the very bad spending cap bill, a bill that doesn't exempt these programs.
It's pretty clear that the national mood matches that found in these states: the American public doesn't want to see Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security sacrificed to the deficit gods. Dems need to keep that in mind, but they also need to remember that when Republicans are talking about the deficit, they're not actually talking about the deficit. They don't care about the deficit, they care about privatizing anything that isn't nailed down. The added bonus for them would be finally destroying these programs that have kept a strong, Democratic coalition together for generations.