Poll: Bush More Popular than His Social Security Plan

NPR reported this morning on a poll it commissioned. They title the story “Poll: Bush More Popular than His Social Security Plan.”

In a public opinion poll for NPR, Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollster Glen Bolger* survey voters’ views on the president’s signature domestic initiative allowing younger workers to invest some of their Social Security taxes in the stock market.

The results suggest that while President Bush’s Social Security proposal itself is not popular, voters seem to give him credit for taking on the issue. Greenberg and Bolger say views of the plan break down according to age, with seniors largely resisting Bush’s plan and younger voters more in favor.

The results:

Graphic: NPR Social Security poll Graphic: NPR Social Security poll

The degree of support for Bush’s plan depends somewhat on the wording. One half of the split sample was asked, “Do you favor or oppose President Bush’s proposal to create voluntary Personal Retirement Accounts as part of the Social Security system?” 49% opposed while 41% favored. The other half was asked, “Do you favor or oppose President Bush’s proposal to privatize Social Security and divert part of the Social Security system into private accounts?” 58% opposed while 34% favored. The opposition is actually stronger than those numbers indicate, since there is a substantially higher “strongly” for the oppose than the favor, regardless of phrasing.

These poll results make it rather clear that Bush has a very difficult task ahead of him. Indeed, he’ll likely fail, since there will be some Republicans who will rightly believe the wishes of their constituents outweigh party loyalty on this one. Clearly, though, the White House is correct (presumably based on previous polling they’ve done) that “personal accounts” vice “privatization” is the way to sell the plan.

Had the sample been larger, I would have been interested in seeing the same questions asked minus the reference to President Bush. While there is real world logic to asking it as phrased–Bush will in fact be associated with it–there are undoubtedly many who will automatically favor/oppose anything simply based on Bush’s name being attached.

Questionnaire and Results [PDF]
There is a link to “Interpretation and Data” but it goes to the same place.

Full disclosure: The Girlfriend works for Bolger’s firm. She was not involved in the survey.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. “there are undoubtedly many who will automatically favor/oppose anything simply based on Bush’s name being attached.”

    Critical point. Does anyone happen to know Greenberg and [fill in a GOP pollster he worked with] track record is? Just off the top of my head, it seems they were waaaayyy off on the election.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Greenberg worked with Bolger’s colleague, Bill McInturff, for NBC and the Wall Street Journal. They were quite close, as I recall.

    Public Opinion Strategies, the firm that McInturff, Bolger, and Neil Newhouse founded, was the most successful Republican (and thus political) polling company in the country in 2004.

    For its work in the 2004 elections, Public Opinion Strategies was congratulated by insider political publication “The Hotline” with the headline: “Consultant Scorecard: Who Had An Especially Good Night? (Gimme A ‘P’; Gimme An ‘O’; Gimme An ‘S’).”

    For its work in the 2002 elections, Public Opinion Strategies won the “Pollster of the Year” Campaign Excellence Award from the American Association of Political Consultants.

    National Journal magazine noted, “Public Opinion Strategies easily turned in the best performance of the major political consulting firms during Election 2002. . .[their] success is also notable because the firm had taken on some of the biggest, toughest races in the country.” Roll Call, the newspaper that covers Capitol Hill, has noted two election cycles that Glen was one of the “Money 20” – consultants in both parties who make a difference.

  3. Eric says:

    I wonder what the numbers would be if the question included the 1-4% figure of how much would actually be in private accounts.