Sharp divisions are apparent in the results Rep. Tom Petri has just issued for his 2011 questionnaire. Although 93.3 percent of respondents agreed that federal deficits are a serious matter requiring a strong response, there was considerable disagreement about where to cut.
"That's with the exception of foreign aid, which 95.7 percent want to cut," said Petri. "And it is interesting that while only 29.2 percent said they were willing to consider Social Security cuts, large percentages were willing to consider specific ways to save money when assured that current retirees and those near retirement would not be affected."
When asked whether Congress should limit the availability of the home mortgage interest tax deduction, 50.2 percent said "yes" while 49.8 percent objected to the idea.
Petri's questionnaire was mailed to his constituents this past spring. The results were delayed due to a major change in his office's computer software, but he says the results remain valid if judged by the many meetings he held in the 6th Congressional District during August.
"Ten thousand people responded by mail, and 5,000 through the internet. That's 2,000 more than last year," said Petri. "It's not what's called a 'scientific' poll, since the participants selected themselves. The responses came from people who were willing to go to the trouble to answer. This means that this poll represents the views of those who are most engaged in politics and public policy."
The questionnaire results follow:
1. Do you believe that federal deficits are a serious matter requiring a strong response?
A. Yes: 93.5%
B. No: 6.5%
2. In order to balance the budget, would you be willing to make cuts in the following areas:
A. Health Care (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) Yes: 45.9% No: 54.1%
B. Low-Income Assistance Yes: 56.3% No: 43.7%
C. Defense Yes: 61.5% No: 38.5%
D. Homeland Security Yes: 46.5% No: 53.5%
E. Foreign Aid Yes: 95.4% No: 4.6%
F. Transportation Yes: 67.8% No: 32.2%
G. Education Yes: 45.9% No: 54.1%
H. Social Security Yes: 31.8% No: 68.2%
I. Agriculture Yes: 74.9% No: 25.1%
J. Veterans Yes: 18.9% No: 81.1%
3. Would you favor Congress limiting the availability of the home mortgage interest tax deduction?
A. Yes: 50.04%
B. No: 49.96%
4. While the Social Security program may not be responsible for our current budget problems, the program does face several years of operating deficits. Without changing benefits for current retirees or those close to retirement, would you support these changes for future retirees?
A. Slowing the growth of future benefits over several years Yes: 57.6% No: 42.4%
B. Raising the cap on income subject to tax Yes: 80.4% No: 19.6%
C. Establish a means test for benefits Yes: 61.1% No: 38.9%
D. Provide benefits on a sliding scale based on income Yes: 65.3% No: 34.7%
E. Gradually increase retirement age for current workers Yes: 52.3% No: 47.7%
F. Increase tax rate for all workers Yes: 37.6% No: 62.4%
G. Voluntary transfers of SS contributions to private accounts Yes : 46.4% No: 53.6%
5. One of the recommendations put forth by the President's debt commission was to convert the Medicare system from a government-run insurance program to a system where Medicare participants are given a voucher to purchase insurance in the private market. Would you support such a change? [Note: To be completely accurate, the recommendations were "considered" rather than "put forth."]
A. Yes: 45.2%
B. No: 54.8%
6. Despite passage of last year's health care law, the future of health care reform remains an open question. Which of the following most closely matches your current position on this issue?
A. Be patient, find out if the new system works - 27.8%
B. Replace with Republican alternative (competition, tort reform, health savings accounts, etc.) - 45.2%
C. Single Payer / Government run system - 14.4%
D. Other - 12.6%
7. Some say that new revenues are necessary to balance the budget. If so, which approach do you prefer?
A. Increase taxes on the wealthy - 43.2%
B. Tax reform to spread the tax burden more broadly - 36.7%
C. No Change. Improving economy will increase revenue - 11.5%
D. Other - 8.7%