03/03/2005 - President George W. Bush is losing ground with the public in his efforts to build support for private retirement accounts in Social Security. Despite Bush’s intensive campaign to promote the idea, the percentage of Americans who say they favor private accounts has tumbled to 46 percent in Pew’s latest nationwide survey, down from 54 percent in December and 58 percent in September.
Support has declined as the public has become increasingly aware of the president’s plan. More than four-in-ten (43 percent) say they have heard a lot about the proposal, nearly double the number who said that in December (23 percent).
Opposition to Bush’s plan is much higher among those who have heard a lot about the plan than among those who are less familiar with it.
The poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Feb. 16-21, 2005, among 1,502 Americans, indicates that the Social Security debate is packing a powerful political punch. It finds that just 29 percent of Americans approve of the way that Bush is handling the issue. This is the president’s lowest approval rating for any policy area, and is considerably lower than his overall job approval rating of 46 percent. Moreover, by a 65 percent-25 percent margin, most say the president has not explained his Social Security proposal clearly enough.
The public expresses much more confidence on this issue in the AARP, which is strongly opposed to private accounts, than they do in the president or in Republican congressional leaders. Yet while 42 percent say they mostly trust Bush on Social Security, Democratic congressional leaders earn no more trust than the president (41 percent). Moreover, 60 percent say Democrats have failed to clearly explain their opposition to Bush’s plan.