01/14/2005 - George W. Bush begins his second term with considerably less popular support than other recent incumbent presidents after their reelection. He also is proposing a second-term policy agenda that differs in several key respects from the public's. Health care, aid for the poor, and the growing budget deficit are all increasingly important public priorities, while limiting lawsuit awards, making recent tax cuts permanent and tax simplification rank near the bottom of the public's agenda.
Social Security, which the White House has targeted as a major issue, ranks near the top of the public's policy agenda, with 70% identifying it as a top priority. But the public believes that the health care system currently is in greater need of repair than Social Security, the tax system or the legal system all of which are expected to be the subject of administration initiatives.
Nearly half of Americans (47%) believe the Social Security system now works pretty well and needs only minor changes, with comparable percentages of Republicans and Democrats in agreement on that point. That compares with just 27% who believe that the health care system works fairly well and 36% who say the same about the education system.
In principle, Americans are open to the idea of introducing private accounts into the Social Security system. But in practice, the public believes it is more important to retain a guaranteed monthly Social Security benefit than it is to let younger workers invest in private accounts whose value would rise or fall depending on how their investments perform. The preference for a guaranteed Social Security benefit has grown since the end of the 1990s stock market boom 65% prefer retaining a guaranteed monthly benefit, compared with 54% in October 2000.
Read the full report Public's Agenda Differs From That Of President Bush on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.