March 15, 2005--Two major misconceptions about
Social Security Reform are costing Personal Retirement Accounts a net 32
percentage points in public opinion polls. Among those over 65, the impact
is even greater.
Surveys conducted by Rasmussen Reports in 2005
show that between 36% and 48% of senior citizens believe their own
retirement benefits will be cut by President Bush's approach to Social
Security. This concern exists despite the fact that the President and other
advocates of reform have stated that they will guarantee all promised
benefits to those 55 and older. This misconception is widely recognized by
activists and journalists, although not many have focused on its impact.
This past weekend, a Rasmussen Reports
survey found a second
major misconception that is dragging down support for reform--less than
half (47%) of all Americans recognize that the President's plan would give
workers a choice between the current program and personal
Twenty-five percent (25%) of
Americans mistakenly believe that the President's plan would require young
workers to leave the current Social Security program and set up personal
retirement accounts. Another 28% are not sure on this point. In fact, no
requires younger workers to leave the current Social Security program.
The President's approach and others would offer workers a choice.
The impact of these misconceptions is
enormous. When we initially ask survey respondents about the President's
plan for personal retirement accounts, just 38% favor the plan and 46% are
opposed. Those results have been mirrored by many other pubic opinion
When we ask about a plan for personal
accounts that would give workers a choice and fully protect those over 55,
the numbers shift dramatically--51% in favor and just 27% opposed. That
represents a net change of 32 percentage points (from minus 8 to plus 24).
This change takes place among all age groups,
but is most dramatic among America's senior citizens. Among those over 65,
just 23% say they support the President's call for personal retirement
accounts and 62% are opposed. However, when asked about the proposal that
gives workers a choice and fully protects those over 55, a plurality of
seniors (42%) support the plan. Just 31% remain opposed.
Those figures reflect a net change of 50
percentage points among senior citizens (from minus 39 to plus 11).
The change is even more dramatic among seniors who initially thought the
Bush plan required younger workers to leave the current program.
As for those under 40, they initially favor
personal retirement accounts by a 48% to 35% margin. When asked about the
plan that includes choice for young workers and protections for retirees,
57% favor the plan and 22% are opposed. That represents a net gain of 22
percentage points (from plus 13 to plus 35).
The same general pattern is found among
Americans 40-64. Their initial response is negative (33% favor, 52%
oppose) but becomes positive (48% favor, 32% oppose).
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Rasmussen Reports is an electronic
publishing firm specializing in the collection, publication, and
distribution of public opinion polling information. We recently
Social Security: Has the Season for Reform Arrived?
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This survey of 2,000 Adults was
conducted by Rasmussen Reports March 10-13, 2005. The margin of
sampling error is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of