As always, poll results depend a lot on how you ask the question. The latest Zogby poll finds that 52% of Americans supported Social Security reform, including private accounts, when they were told that private accounts could generate a higher rate of return than Social Security. (I’ve never liked talking about Social Security “rates of return,” since the fact is that there isn’t any investment, just payment of taxes.) Here are Zogby’s key paragraphs:
“The thing that is compelling in this poll is that this is the response you get when you use a positive approach on Social Security reform,” Mr. Zogby said. “If you use the ‘Chicken Little, sky-is-falling’ approach, then voters understand that something has to be done, but don’t see the connection between personal accounts and fundamental reform of Social Security.”
Among supporters, the most popular reason for supporting private accounts was, “It’s my money; I should control it,” Mr. Zogby said. “This was true for every group except African-Americans, who chose inheritability as their biggest reason for supporting accounts.”
The poll’s results suggested that Mr. Bush’s proposal would be much more popular if he focused “on the points in this poll,” Mr. Zogby said in an interview. “Nobody can understand or relate to the system’s insolvency in 2043. But it wins a majority when the issue is raised as a matter of choice and as a positive opportunity,” he said. “If it’s pitted as just Social Security reform because it is becoming insolvent, that’s not enough.”
I thnk that’s right. I’ve always thought that the worst way to sell Social Security reform is to talk about accounting.