Confidence In The Status Of Future Social Security Benefits Is A Real Issue For The American Public

Confidence In The Status Of Future Social Security Benefits Is A Real Issue For The American Public 

According to the second AARP survey on public attitudes toward Social Security and private accounts, conducted in January 2005 by AARP and Roper Public Affairs, 62% of Americans have a favorable view of Social Security, and two-thirds support keeping the program as close to the current system as possible.

The favorable opinion of Social Security extends across all age groups, with majorities expressing a very or somewhat favorable view of the program. In addition, over 6 in 10 women, African- Americans, and Hispanic-Americans favor the program.

Similarly, majorities of individuals in all age groups support keeping the Social Security program as close to the present system, as possible:

  • Individuals age 60+ (83%),
  • Hispanics (74%),
  • African-Americans (75%)
  • women (67%),
  • younger persons ages 18 to 39 (55%)

Only 43% of survey respondents are at least somewhat confident that Social Security will be there for them when they retire. AARP's focus group research indicates that the viability of the Social Security program is not well understood, and public pessimism exists about the program.

The public recognizes the need for Social Security reform. However, they do not believe that private accounts will resolve the shortfalls Social Security might have in the future. People tend to see Social Security solvency and private accounts as separate and distinct issues. 9 in 10 Americans of every age, race/ethnicity and gender group agree that Social Security's problems can be fixed and should be fixed sooner rather than later. However, large majorities of persons (7 to 8 in 10) in every age, race/ethnicity and gender group agree that Social Security should be protected as a guaranteed benefit, and not privatized.

The survey indicates that many Americans favor personal control in their lives; like the idea of leaving a legacy; and desire wealth. However, the fact that many people exhibit these typical American preferences does not mean the public is willing to damage what they value about Social Security in order to get them.

This table illustrates responses from the groups who initially favored allowing workers to invest up to $1,300 of their Social Security contributions in individual retirement accounts, as well as those who dropped their support for private accounts in response to each additional likely consequence. In the context of the entire survey sample, only 4% favored privatization regardless of the consequences.

Percent Opposing Private Accounts if it meant. . . ?

 

Total Pop.

8-39

40-59

60+

Women

Hispanic

African American

No withdrawals prior to retirement

53%

42%

54%

64%

56%

51%

62%

Lower guaranteed Social Security benefit in retirement

63%

57%

66%

68%

68%

64%

70%

Stock market fluctuations could result in decreased money in retirement

61%

53%

63%

68%

65%

64%

71%

Workers pay management fees associated with private accounts

 63%

57%

65%

69%

68%

66%

72%

New government agency created to administer program

65%

54%

68%

77%

64%

57%

63%

Diverting some of Social Security payroll taxes means massive new federal debt in order to pay current benefits

68%

63%

70%

74%

71%

64%

68%

Market losers will need additional help from government

62%

50%

64%

75%

63%

58%

63%

Cuts to your guaranteed SS benefits would be so severe that you could not make up the difference with money from your private account

71%

70%

71%

76%

77%

72%

75%

Changes to the way SS benefits are calculated would result in cuts in guaranteed benefits for everyone not just people who choose to participate in private the accounts program

69%

65%

71%

76%

73%

66%

70%

Our children could be confronted with two bills: one for the current shortfall and another to meet additional shortfall due to private accounts

 68%

66%

68%

73%

72%

69%

69%

 

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