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Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Bush Winning on Social Security?

Karl Rove thinks so, according to a story in today's Washington Post.
"We've been probably to some degree too successful" in selling private -- or personal -- accounts, White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove said yesterday.

There was a recent poll he had seen that found that about 40 percent of those who disapprove of Bush's performance on this issue actually want private accounts, explained Rove....

"I think their attitude," he said, "is: 'I disapprove of the president's performance on Social Security because he hasn't gotten it done.

Rove's optimism seemed pretty overheated, so I thought I'd look at a few polls. I guess you shouldn't be to quick to dismiss Rove's analysis, since he does seem to have something of a point.

According to a recent Pew Foundation poll, for example, it turns out that although only 29% of the public approve of Bush's handling of Social Security, 47% favor "a proposal that would allow younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts, which might include stocks or mutual funds." So polls rating his handling of Social Security do seem to make Bush's support on the issue look weaker than it really is.

On the other hand, support for private accounts falls dramatically -- from 48% to 27% -- if it is described as "reducing the rate of growth in guaranteed Social Security benefits for future retirees," according to a Washington Post poll. Since the Bush guys have been talking about exactly that (a "clawback" that would reduce traditional Social Security benefits for those who chose to put their contributions into private accounts) it seems like Bush and Rove are going to have a hard time selling their plan. Unless they mislead the public, of course.

Perhaps that's why there's no mention of the clawback on the White House Social Security page. And perhaps that why polls asking which party people "trust more to protect the Social Security system and retirement benefits" show the Democrats coming out on top by 46% to 36%.

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