Americans want the safety net left off this table. (photo: misterjamin)

Americans oppose any cuts to the country’s largest social safety net programs in order to reduce the federal deficit according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll (PDF). Two-thirds of Americans want no reductions in Social Security, 59 percent want no cuts to Medicare, and 53 percent want no reductions in Medicaid spending. On the other hand, 57 percent would support either major or minor reductions in defense spending to reduce the deficit.

There is a legitimate concern that while Medicare will be seen as too politically popular (and seniors too politically powerful) to touch, a bipartisan budget deal will result in big cuts to Medicaid, which serves people who tend to have less of a voice in politics.

After all, every member of Congress is inherently paid a good salary and tends to hang out (by choice or necessity) mainly with rich people. While most every member of Congress is likely to turn 65 or have friends and family on Medicare someday, it is rare for them to have a deep personal involvement in Medicaid. This can create the false impression within the Washington bubble that “most people” don’t use or care about Medicaid.

This is just not the case, though. The poll found 49 percent of Americans felt Medicaid was very or somewhat important to their family. While cuts to Medicaid are slightly more acceptable to the American people than cuts to Medicare, Medicaid is still very popular and people don’t want it cut.