Americans don’t want Washington to cut Medicaid, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

While most Americans want to cut the trillion-dollar deficit by cutting spending, they don’t want to cut funding for Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid – the most expensive entitlement programs.

The fact that about 47 percent of people in the nation oppose cuts to Medicaid came as a surprise to researchers.

The Medicaid program has become a major point of contention for states opposed to its expansion under the federal health care law, and a number of states have cited Medicaid as a principle cause of their budget problems.

“While we have always believed that Social Security and Medicare [are popular], the standing of the Medicaid program with the public … is actually very high,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation.

To make matters more complicated, half of Americans now oppose the health care law, but most aren’t as enthusiastic about repealing, replacing or de-funding it as GOP leaders are.

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Researchers found lack of clear public consensus on federal spending, coupled with deeply partisan divides over the new health care law, as key findings.

The survey was completed in early January, just weeks prior to a vote by House Republicans to repeal the health law, a largely symbolic vote that fell along partisan lines. Public opposition of the health care law has swelled since December – half of Americans now oppose it, up from 41 percent. The survey also shows that the American public is almost as evenly divided about how Congress should proceed next – 47 percent favor expanding the health law or keeping it the way it is now, while 43 percent favor repealing or repealing and replacing it with some other alternative.