Bush Lags on Social Security Push

ByABC News
April 28, 2005, 2:17 PM

April 28, 2005 — -- President Bush has spent a good part of the last two months trying to accomplish three tasks on Social Security: Convince more people it's in a crisis, move it up as a priority and persuade the public that he's the guy to deal with it.

He's been having real trouble on all three.

While most Americans say the system is in crisis or has major problems, their numbers have not grown from the late 1990s. Neither do any more people give Social Security a high priority for the president and Congress to address. As far as Bush's own ratings, the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, which was completed on April 24, finds that his approval rating on handling Social Security has hit a career low. He trails the Democrats by a record margin in trust to handle it, and for the first time, support for the centerpiece of his approach -- private accounts - has fallen below 50 percent.

The White House has said the president, approaching the end of his 60-day push for Social Security reform, will declare it "a success" based on the notion that it has increased public focus on the problems facing the government benefit program.

Yet polling data indicate that the public's focus and level of alarm haven't changed much at all.

Most Americans do say the program has major problems or is in a crisis -- but the number who say so is at best the same now as it was in polls dating back more than six years. In a December 1998 Gallup poll, 15 percent said the system was in a crisis and 55 percent said it had major problems. In a Quinnipiac poll that repeated the same question last month, the numbers were 15 percent and 53 percent -- essentially no change.