Keep talking, Mr. President

Support for Bush's Social Security plan keeps falling -- and the more people know, the more they say they're inclined to oppose it.

By Tim Grieve
Published March 14, 2005 4:19PM (EST)

George W. Bush is back in Washington this week after campaigning for his Social Security privatization plan in Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama and Tennessee. His welcome home gift? A Washington Post-ABC poll showing a new low in public support for the way in which the president is handling Social Security.

Only 35 percent of the poll's respondents said they approved of Bush's work on Social Security. That's down three points since January, when the president started his big push, and it's the lowest level of support the poll has ever measured for Bush on the issue. What's more, 58 percent of the respondents told pollsters that, the more they learn about Bush's plan, the more inclined they are to oppose it.

With Democrats united against him and Republicans crumbling around him, Bush is beginning to shift gears. He may be on the road again pitching the Social Security plan later this week. But in the meantime, watch for Bush to be talking about foreign affairs instead.

The president may be bewildered by the public's resistance to his Social Security plan; it's certainly not what he sees as he travels the country promoting privatization. At stop after stop, Bush shares a stage with pro-privatization panelists and hears the applause from invitation-only audiences of supporters -- some of whom are driven to the events and armed with pro-Bush signs by local volunteers. If planners slip up and let in any dissenting voices -- the ones who represent about 65 percent of the public, apparently -- the naysayers are quickly quickly silenced or escorted away. If privatization supporters want to make more headway with their plan, perhaps they should take the same approach with the president.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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