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Deficit cutting shouldn't be main U.S goal - poll

WASHINGTON(CNN) -- How important is the federal deficit?

According to a new national poll, it's very important in the minds of most Americans. But a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Monday also indicates that only one in five believe that deficit reduction should be the main goal of government today.

Sixty-eight percent of people questioned in the poll say they personally worry a lot about the size of the federal deficit, with one in four saying they only worry about it a little and 7% say they don't worry at all about the federal deficit.

The poll also indicates that nearly eight in ten say earmarks are unacceptable, with just 19% of the public saying that earmarks, which are practice of many members of Congress of adding to bills spending project provisions for their home districts or states, are acceptable.

Opposition to earmarks earlier this month helped sink a push by Senate Democrats to pass a budget that included billions of dollars in the provisions.

"The concerns over the deficit and the opposition to earmarks helps explain why nearly half say that reducing the deficit is very important," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But only 22% say that deficit reduction should be the government's main goal."

CNN poll numbers released last week indicate that 57% opposed an increase in the deficit to pay for tax changes and unemployment benefits, which were part of a tax cut compromise between President Obama and congressional Republicans that was passed into law.

But a CNN survey from November showed that holding the line on Social Security, Medicare, and taxes were more important to most Americans than deficit reduction. In that poll, just 19% of those surveyed thought reducing the federal deficit was more important than preventing cuts to Medicare and Social Security, and 28% believed it was more important than avoiding cuts to Medicaid.

But that survey showed that cutting deficits was as or more important than preventing defense cuts, stopping cuts to art funding or cutting government salaries.

"That may mean that reducing the deficit may be a hard sell when it comes at the cost of higher taxes or reductions in government programs," adds Holland.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted Dec. 17-19, with 1,008 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points. To top of page

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