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Public Attitudes Toward Social Security and Private Accounts

As the time for President George W. Bush's February 2nd State of the Union address drew closer, public discussion about the future of Social Security intensified amidst reports and speculation about what he would say about this important domestic policy issue. While many opinion surveys contain questions about it, there are few current, comprehensive assessments of how the public views the Social Security program and what people think about private accounts carved from Social Security funds.

To gauge public attitudes on these issues, AARP commissioned the following telephone surveys of Americans age 18 and up:

  • National survey of 1,000 persons, with oversamples of 410 African-Americans and 411 Hispanic-Americans, conducted from January 15th through January 23rd of 2005 by AARP and Roper Public Affairs

  • Five individual state surveys of approximately 700 persons each in Arkansas, Florida, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota, conducted between January 27th and February 1st of 2005 by Woelfel Research, Inc.

While people recognize the need for Social Security reform, the surveys generally found that they do not believe private accounts will resolve the shortfalls the system might have in the future. Instead, they tend to see Social Security solvency and private accounts as separate and distinct issues. These findings suggest that, once people of all ages, race/ethnicities and genders hear some of the consequences associated with private accounts, support for them decreases considerably.

For further information about the surveys, please contact Jeffrey Love of AARP Knowledge Management/Strategic Issues Research at 202-434-6279.

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