The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein has used a new Gallup poll showing that 77% of Americans believe “the cost of the government’s major entitlement programs, including Social Security and Medicare, will create major economic problems for the U.S. in the next 25 years” to produce the following headline:

Americans prefer tax increases to benefit cuts.

Problem is, that just is not the choice respondents were given. Here are the actual top line questions produced by Gallup:

If the cost of major entitlement programs does create major economic problems for the U.S., do you think the
government should or should not do each of the following to deal with the situation? How about –
A. Raise taxes 42% Yes, should – 56% No, should not
B. Cut benefits 32% yes, Should – 66% No, should not

The first thing to notice is that more than 100% of respondents said no to both items. This shows that respondents were not offered an opportunity to prefer one option over the other as Klein’s headline implies.

But more importantly “cut benefits” is a very blunt question that misses many ways Congress could cut Social Security spending. For example, Congress could “limit benefits for wealthy retirees.” And when Gallup asked Americans if they supported that policy back in July of this year, 63% of Americans said they would support those spending cuts. On the contrary, 64% of Americans thought it was a bad idea to increase Social Security taxes for all workers.