Poll: Bush's Social Security Plan is Tough Sell

Other changes are also broadly unpopular. Americans by 2-to-1 oppose increasing the Social Security tax rate, by 2-to-1 oppose raising the retirement age to receive full benefits to 68 from the current 67, and by nearly 2-to-1 oppose further trimming the benefits paid to people who retire early.

Much more popular is the notion of taking more from the better-off. By 56 percent to 40 percent, the public favors eliminating the cap on annual earnings that are subject to Social Security taxes, now $90,000. Interestingly, this is supported by a 20-point margin even in households with total incomes greater than $100,000 a year.

Support for Social Security Reform Proposals
Invest Contributions56%
Tax All of a Worker's Wages56
Reduce the Rate of Growth of Benefits37
Reduce Benefits to Early Retirees36
Raise the Retirement Age33
Increase the Tax Rate31
Reduce Benefits20

Within any proposals, there are complications that can influence public opinion. Earlier ABC/Post polling has shown that support for personal accounts drops sharply if it means borrowing up to $2 trillion to pay for the transition. Support also is lower if the change is portrayed as "diverting" Social Security money. And there's broad reluctance actually to participate in such accounts. A key reason: Sixty-nine percent in this poll view the stock market as "a risky investment," not a safe one.


There are generational differences on Social Security. Opposition to Bush's plan peaks at 62 percent among senior citizens. Fifty-two percent of seniors not only oppose Bush's plan, but do so strongly -- an extremely high level of intense opposition. However, even among 18- to 29-year-olds, strong opponents outnumber strong supporters by 2-to-1, albeit at much lower levels of intensity, 23 percent to 12 percent.

Views of Bush's Proposals by Age
Support Oppose
18-29 40% 49
30-39 44 50
40-49 37 56
50-64 34 58
65+ 31 62

There is also strong partisanship on this issue: Opposition runs to 83 percent among Democrats and 56 percent among independents, while 74 percent of Republicans back the president's proposals.

On some specific proposals, views transcend partisanship. More than six in 10 Republicans, Democrats and independents alike oppose increasing the Social Security tax rate (something Bush has ruled out). And 55 percent to 58 percent, across party lines, support raising the $90,000 cap on taxable income. Indeed this idea -- which Bush has not ruled out -- wins majority support both from supporters and opponents of his proposals overall.

Bush's Proposals on Social Security
Support Oppose
All 37% 55
Age 65+ 31 62
40-49 37 56
18-30 40 49
Democrats 11 83
Independents 33 56
Republicans 74 20
Think Major Changes Needed 47 45
Major Changes Not Needed 27 68
Well-Informed on Bush Plan 43 56
Not Well-Informed on Bush Plan 32 54


As noted, at 35 percent, approval of Bush's work on Social Security is at a career low. He more generally remains a 50 percent president: Half of Americans approve of his job performance overall, 48 percent disapprove, about the same as just before his second inauguration, and indeed about the same as it has been on average for the past year. (Slightly more now disapprove strongly than approve strongly, 37 percent to 31 percent.)

Bush's Handling of Social Security
Approve Disapprove No opinion
3/13/05 35 56 9

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