Pew provided respondents with 12 deficit reduction options and asked if they approved or disapproved of each option. Majorities approved of five of the options: raise taxes on income over $250,000 (69 percent), limit deductions a taxpayer can claim (54 percent), raise the tax rate on investment income (52 percent), reduce Medicare benefits for higher income seniors (51 percent), and reduce Social Security benefits for higher income seniors (51 percent).
Deficit reduction solutions that impact a broader range of Americans received less support. The options that majorities disapproved included: reduce military spending (55 percent), gradually raise Social Security retirement age (56 percent), gradually raise Medicare retirement age (56 percent), and limit the home mortgage deduction (52 percent).
If congressional Republicans and President Barack Obama do not reach an agreement on long-term deficit reduction, taxes will go up for all income groups and spending will be cut for military defense and other non-entitlement programs.
The programs that Americans most disapprove of cutting would be cut if the fiscal cliff is not avoided -- funding to help lower-income Americans (58 percent), for roads and transportation (67 percent), and for education (77 percent).
The poll suggests that Democrats have an advantage in the current negotiations. They mostly want to increase taxes on the wealthy while Republicans mostly want to cut spending and reform entitlements. Republicans have, though, suggested means testing Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Most Americans, 55 percent, also believe that Obama is making a serious effort to reach an agreement, but only 32 percent believe the same about Republican leaders.
The Dec. 5-9 poll of 1,503 adults has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.