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Young Americans See the Devil in Private Account Details

Women, African-Americans, Hispanics Also Skeptical of Radical Changes to Social Security

Young Americans (age 18 to 39), often viewed as open to private accounts in Social Security, in fact question the proposal when confronted with details, a new national poll shows.

Results of a new poll of 1000 Americans age 18 and up were announced at a Washington press conference today by AARP, Rock the Vote, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies. AARP CEO Bill Novelli, Rock the Vote Political Director Hans Reimer and Joint Center Senior Vice President Margaret C. Simms released the results.

The survey found that while Americans of all ages, race/ethnicity and gender recognize the need to strengthen Social Security, most oppose private accounts once they learn the likely consequences of putting the accounts into effect.

Most Americans in the 18 to 39 age group, for example, say that they would flat-out oppose the accounts if, for example, it means that cuts to their guaranteed Social Security benefits would be so severe that they could not make up the difference with private accounts (70 percent say they would oppose) or that diverting some Social Security payroll taxes means "massive new federal debt in order to pay current benefits" (63 percent say they would oppose).

Women, Hispanics and African-Americans (of all ages) rejected private accounts by even larger margins when asked about the same likely scenarios, the poll found. African Americans are especially reluctant to pass debt onto future generations. Nearly seven in ten (69%) would oppose private accounts if it meant their children "could be confronted with two bills: one for the current shortfall and another to meet additional shortfall due to private accounts."

"We should not be surprised that many younger adults – along with older Americans – have serious questions as they learn more about the potential consequences of private accounts," said AARP's Novelli. "They know that change is needed, but they want change that strengthens Social Security, not weakens it."

Political Director of Rock the Vote Hans Riemer said, "This poll shows that young people do not support changing Social Security if it means dismantling the basic safety net, cutting benefits dramatically, or massively increasing the national debt. They get all three at once under most private accounts plans. We hope the politicians who say they want to help younger generations are paying attention."

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies President Togo Dennis West Jr. said, "This survey gives voice to many concerns that African Americans have about the current debate about Social Security reform, and augments some of the findings of previous Joint Center polls."

The new poll follows one last week by AARP that surveyed Americans age 30 and above. That poll found that, given a choice, three-in-five would strengthen Social Security with as few changes as possible.

The latest poll was conducted for AARP by Roper Public Affairs between January 15 and 23. The telephone poll involved 1,000 persons aged 18 and over, with over samples of 410 African-Americans and 411 Hispanic-Americans. Five hundred seventy-eight women were surveyed.

The new survey asked participants about their view of private accounts if these scenarios were involved:

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