NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Supports Social Security Investment Option

August 14, 2000

Polls consistently show personal retirement accounts are a popular alternative to the current Social Security system. In April 2000, an extensive nationwide poll of 600 registered voters conducted for the National Center for Policy Analysis by Public Opinion Strategies found that while Social Security is universally popular, Americans recognize it faces long-term problems and needs reform.

  • Social Security is viewed favorably by 60 percent of voters, and unfavorably by only 18 percent -- a far more positive view than Americans have of other government programs.
  • Still, a majority -- 51 percent -- say that Social Security needs "radical" change (20 percent) or "major" change (31 percent) to ensure the program's fiscal health.
  • Only 21 percent expect to receive their full Social Security benefit, while 76 percent expect to receive only part or nothing.
  • Fifty-nine percent say workers under age 30 will never see what they paid into the system.

An overwhelming 80 percent of voters favor a reform plan that allows them to invest a portion of their payroll taxes in a personal retirement account they own and control; only 9 percent oppose such a plan.

  • If given a choice, 73 percent (60 percent strongly) would be willing to switch to the new system, and only 23 percent would remain in the current system.
  • Ninety percent of those who expect to receive no Social Security benefits would switch, as would 74 percent of those who expect to receive some benefits.
  • Even 56 percent of those who expect to receive all their benefits would switch to the new system.

The reform plan is most popular features are: (1) the personal retirement account could be passed on to one's family, and (2) taxpayers would receive credit for payroll taxes already paid into the current system.

Source: Bill McInturff and Matt Moore, "Americans Support Personal Retirement Accounts," Brief Analysis No. 333, August 14, 2000, National Center for Policy Analysis.

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