Poll Finds Public Says Social Security Needs Changes, But Doesn’t Think It’s A Failure

If the new CNN/ORC poll is any indication, Rick Perry is a bit out of step with the public when it comes to Social Security:

Tampa, Florida (CNN) – Most Americans believe the Social Security system needs major changes but they disagree with the characterization of Social Security as a lie and a failure, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International poll released just a few hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over Social Security at the first-ever CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate also indicates that Americans are divided more on generational lines than partisan lines when it comes to the longtime government program for retirees.

(…)

The poll indicates that more than seven out of ten Americans disagree with the statement that Social Security is a “monstrous lie” and a failure.

“That’s true for Democrats, independents and Republicans,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “But younger Americans are three times as likely to agree with those statements than older Americans, although a majority of all age groups disagree.”

According to the survey, the same is true when Americans are asked about the overall health of Social Security. Only a handful say the system has no serious problems, and roughly a quarter say it has minor problems. Most say the system can be fixed only with major changes, with one in eight favor replacing Social Security with a different system.

“Once again, the principal divisions are based on age, not partisanship, with younger Americans ten times more likely than senior citizens to call for replacing the system,” adds Holland.

Here are a few of the highlights from the poll (PDF):

  • 55% of those polled said that Social Security has serious problems that will require major changes, 28% say the problems are minor and can be fixed with minor changes, and only 12% say the problems are so bad that the entire system should be scrapped. Those numbers are nearly identical to the response to the same question asked in a poll 1998. Then, the numbers were 52%. 22%., and 16% respectively.
  • 72% of those surveyed disagreed with Rick Perry’s description of Social Security as “a monstrous lie,” 27% agreed.
  • The only age demographic where a majority did not agree that Social Security had serious problems that required changes was the 65 and older group. Even there, 46% agreed with that statement.

There were no questions about specific reform proposals, but then Perry hasn’t put any forward yet so that’s not really surprising. What it suggests, though, is that the public would not necessarily react negatively who approached the Social Security issue from the perspective of someone who believed that we needed to address its long-term health without negatively impacting current beneficiaries. Perry’s problem is that he’s poisoned the well with his rhetoric.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, Public Opinion Polls, Quick Takes, Social Security, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Tano says:

    If you need a poll to tell you this, then you really should get out more, Doug.

    is that the public would not necessarily react negatively who approached the Social Security issue from the perspective of someone who believed that we needed to address its long-term health without negatively impacting current beneficiaries.

    Huh? Countless politicians have been having this conversation for the past decade. WE all know by rote now what the factors at play are – some combination of: raise the tax, raise the income subject to tax limit, raise the retirement age, adjust the COLA. It is going to be a relatively minor tweak, and the system will be stable indefinitely. Its just that nothing will be done until it absolutely has to be done, as is the way in American politics.

  2. I disagree with you Tano. For the most part, politicians have been afraid to talk about Social Security in anything more than just the most vague and general terms. The Bush Administrations relatively minor effort was quickly withdrawn in the wake of negative feedback from Republicans in Congress afraid it would hurt their re-election chances. As with so many other things, America’s politicians are not being honest with the American people

  3. WR says:

    @Doug Mataconis: The Bush administration’s “relatively minor” effort was a deliberate attempt to wipe out SS and transfer its assets to Wall Street. If you paid any attention at all, you know this.

  4. Nikki says:

    America’s politicians are not being honest with the American people

    Why does there always have to be this “both sides do it” rhetoric? With regard to Social Security, it’s not “America’s politicians” who are being dishonest; it’s the conservatives. Liberals have been saying for years that SS only needs a few tweaks here and there to make it sustainable. It’s the conservatives who are lying about its health and/or actively working to kill it.

  5. Tano says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The Bush Administrations relatively minor effort was quickly withdrawn in the wake of negative feedback from Republicans in Congress afraid it would hurt their re-election chances.

    What on earth are you talking about Doug? Tweaking the parameters I laid out would consititute a minor, and completely sufficient, effort to fix the system. Bush’s proposal went far beyond that, and was an attempt to introduce private accounts, using SS revenue.

    That was an ideological move. It was totally unnecessary in terms of what was needed to fix the financing, and was a huge giveaway of our SS tax money to the financial industry, who would collect tens or hundreds of billions of fees from this huge pot of money that they were salivating over. Of course it was wildly unpopular.

    As with so many other things, America’s politicians are not being honest with the American people

    You are the one being dishonest if you try to claim that SS cannot be made stable without introducing private accounts, or some other radical restructuring of the system. You may wish those reforms to take place, but they are not necessary to solve the funding problem. Obama and all the other prominent Democrats have certainly been honest about the existence of a funding problem, once the trust fund runs out, and on the factors that need to be tweaked in order to make the system stable.