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Americans More Upbeat About Future Social Security Benefits

Americans More Upbeat About Future Social Security Benefits

Story Highlights

  • Half of nonretirees expect to receive a Social Security benefit
  • 53% of retirees expect they will continue to get their full benefits
  • Americans prefer raising taxes to curbing future benefits

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans are more optimistic about the future of Social Security than they have been in recent years, even though only about half currently express optimism. Among U.S. nonretirees, 50% expect the Social Security system to pay them a benefit when they retire, while 47% do not. In three readings taken between 2005 and 2015, nonretirees were more inclined to predict they would not receive Social Security retirement benefits.


Further, 53% of current U.S. retirees believe they will continue to receive their full Social Security benefits, up from 37% in 2010 and 49% in 2015. Forty-three percent of retirees currently believe their benefits will eventually be cut.


Despite the improved outlook among both retirees and nonretirees, neither group is any more upbeat about the future of their Social Security benefits now than they were in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s.

These results are based on Gallup polling conducted in June and July, including a sample of more than 1,300 nonretirees and over 600 retirees.

Social Security’s future has been a topic of debate for decades. The system is expected to be able to continue to pay full benefits to recipients through 2033 if no changes are made to the system. In 2034, the system is projected to be able to pay 80% of benefits to recipients.

President Joe Biden brought up the future of the system in his 2023 State of the Union speech and appeared to receive support from both parties to protect Social Security from near-term cuts in federal budget negotiations. It is unclear to what extent this recent display of bipartisan consensus on the issue has influenced Americans’ opinions about their future Social Security benefits.

Greater optimism about the future of Social Security in recent years comes at a time when Americans’ satisfaction with the Social Security system has also been higher.

Nonretirees Aged 30 to 49 Not Counting on Getting Benefits

Expectations for receiving Social Security benefits vary by age among nonretirees. As might be expected, older nonretirees are fairly confident, with 66% of those aged 50 and older expecting to get benefits.

But it is the next oldest age group, rather than the youngest that is furthest away from retirement, that is least confident. Thirty-seven percent of nonretirees between the ages of 30 and 49 believe they will get Social Security benefits, while 61% do not.

The youngest adults, those aged 18 to 29, are divided -- 50% think they will get benefits, and 48% do not.

Compared with 2015, older and middle-aged nonretirees’ expectations about receiving benefits are not meaningfully different now. Meanwhile, the youngest age group is significantly more likely today (50%) than in 2015 (34%) to predict they will receive benefits.


The youngest nonretirees today are more optimistic about getting Social Security benefits than that age group has been at any point since 2000.

Today, the cohort of 18- to 29-year-olds consists of the youngest millennials and oldest members of Generation Z. In 2015, the 18-to-29 age group included only members of the millennial generation. Many of those people have now aged into the 30-to-49 age bracket and retain more pessimistic views about Social Security.

Politics Modestly Related to Social Security Expectations

Democratic nonretirees (60%) are more likely than Republican (50%) and independent (45%) nonretirees to expect to receive Social Security benefits when they retire.

There are larger party differences in current retirees' faith that their Social Security benefits will be maintained. Democratic retirees (69%) are substantially more confident than Republican retirees (39%) about avoiding cuts to their Social Security benefits. A slim majority of retired independents, 53%, expect to continue receiving their current benefits.


Party differences on these items have been inconsistent over time. For example, the party gap in nonretirees’ belief that they will get Social Security payments is smaller this year than in 2015 (when the difference was 22 percentage points, 59% for Democrats and 37% for Republicans), larger than it was in 2001 and 2010 when there were essentially no party differences, and about the same as it was in 2000 and 2005. When gaps have existed, those who identify with the party of the incumbent president have typically been more positive about the future of Social Security.

Americans Prefer Higher Taxes to Benefit Cuts

Discussions about preserving Social Security in the future largely center on raising payroll taxes of current workers that fund the system, curbing benefits for current and/or future recipients, and possibly raising the age at which retirees can receive full Social Security benefits (currently 67 years old). U.S. adults have typically favored raising Social Security taxes as opposed to curbing benefits as a means of ensuring the long-term future of the system, but they are more likely to favor tax increases now than in the past.

Sixty-one percent of Americans say they would prefer the government raise Social Security taxes, while 31% would rather the government curb Social Security benefits. In three previous surveys in 2005, 2010 and 2015, the margin in favor of increased taxes has been smaller than the 30-point gap seen this year, ranging from nine to 15 points.


Majorities of Democrats (69%) and independents (53%) prefer raising taxes to beef up Social Security, while 39% of Republicans agree. Fifty-six percent of Republicans prefer the government curb Social Security benefits for recipients, a view shared by 44% of independents and 27% of Democrats.

Democrats are more likely today than in the past to favor increased taxes (averaging 59% between 2005 and 2015), while Republicans are now more likely to favor curbing benefits (averaging 45% in those years).

Bottom Line

While policymakers may not share Americans’ increasingly positive outlook, U.S. adults are more optimistic about the future of Social Security, at least as it pertains to them, than they were in Gallup’s most recent surveys in 2010 and 2015. Much of this increased optimism comes from the youngest Americans, who are roughly four decades away from retirement.

Nonretirees are more likely to believe that a 401(k) plan will be a major source of income in their retirement than to say this about Social Security. However, among current retirees, Social Security is the clear leader over other retirement funding sources, underscoring the importance of the system to U.S. seniors.

The subject of Social Security has been an issue in the 2024 presidential campaign. Most candidates have pledged to keep the system largely intact, while some have offered modest proposals to help ensure the system’s longer-term viability.

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