In the polls

By Jeff Horwitz
January 13, 2005 11:03PM (UTC)
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Ever since November 2, we've been a little burned out on polling, but on the subjects of terrorism and Social Security Gallup's most recent survey is worth a look. Published in USA Today, the poll suggests that Bush, and some in the mainstream and conservative media, may have convinced a majority of Americans that Social Security faces near-imminent bankruptcy, but not that much-hyped "private accounts" will fix its finances.

When asked whether the current Social Security system would be able to "pay you a benefit when you retire," a plurality of 50 percent said no. That answer is, of course, factually wrong, assuming that you're planning on retiring before the 22nd century. (If you don't trust Paul Krugman on that, just look at the Social Security Trust Fund's 2004 report). But this misperception might explain why a full half of respondents thought the Social Security system needed "major changes" in the next couple of years; an additional 40 percent believed those "major changes" would need to take place within a decade.


While most Americans don't seem to have a good grip on the budget fundamentals of social security, a solid majority of them know that they don't want to change the program to include Bush's "private accounts." By a margin of 55-40, those surveyed thought that reducing guaranteed benefits to pay for private accounts was a "bad idea."

Gallup also touched on the topic of treatment of detainees, and found that by and large, Americans oppose harsh methods of interrogation recently employed by the U.S. government. Solid majorities thought it was "wrong" to "[force] prisoners to remain naked and chained in uncomfortable positions in cold rooms for several hours,"[threaten] prisoners with dogs," and "[strap] prisoners on boards and [force] their heads underwater until they think they are drowning." That said, minorities of up to 30 percent think that such actions are "right."

Jeff Horwitz

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