Demonstrators, including many senior citizens, protest against cuts to federal safety net programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid on November 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois.
Scott Olson/getty

Center-left economic ideas dominate

There’s plenty to chew on in the new, national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, and we’ll get to some of the horse-race results a little later. What struck me as equally important, if not more so, were public attitudes on economic policy.
The Wall Street Journal’s report flagged this gem, for example.
One of the rare, unifying themes was the broad support for a proposal introduced by [Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders] to increase Social Security benefits, funded by extending Social Security taxes to income above the current cap of $118,500 a year. Americans were similarly resistant to phasing out Social Security benefits for people who make more than $80,000 a year, a proposal made by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a likely GOP presidential candidate.
Last year, the idea of expanding Social Security, instead of cutting it, started to catch on among congressional Democrats as an idea whose time has come. Though widely dismissed as a pipe dream by much of the establishment, a variety of high-profile senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) threw their support behind the idea.
 
In all likelihood, most of the public hasn’t heard about the proposals directly, but the poll results suggest a high level of intuitive support. Indeed, it was one of the single most popular policy measures in the survey.
 
It’s against this backdrop that many Republican presidential candidates are running on a platform that includes reducing Social Security benefits and raising the retirement age.
 
In the same poll, respondents were offered a series of possible problems and asked to identify which were the most pressing concerns. The top choice: “Wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence” in the upcoming elections.
 
This, too, makes it that much more difficult for GOP presidential hopefuls to run on a platform that’s indifferent, if not hostile, towards campaign-finance reforms.
 
But in the broader context, anyone under the impression that this is a center-right nation hostile towards progressive economic ideas needs to take a closer look at the data.
 
It’s not just this NBC poll; a CBS poll released earlier this month showed huge majorities of Americans endorsing paid sick leave, paid leave for new parents, a minimum-wage increase, and higher taxes on millionaires and billionaires.
 
This isn’t to suggest Democrats have an easy electoral road ahead of them – they don’t – but it matters that Democratic candidates are heartily endorsing the very policy measures the American mainstream supports enthusiastically.
 

Polling and Social Security

Center-left economic ideas dominate