Thursday, August 14, 2008

New poll data on Social Security

Rasmussen Reports released a new public opinion poll on Social Security, asking Americans their views on the current program and how it might be fixed. As always, the phrasing of the questions matters, but I think the poll is interesting in a number of areas. Here are the results:

National Survey of 1,000 Likely Voters
Conducted August 1, 2008 By Rasmussen Reports

1) How confident are you that the Social Security system will pay you all promised retirement benefits during your lifetime?

15% Very confident
29% Somewhat confident
28% Not very confident
25% Not at all confident
3% Not sure

2) Should working Americans be allowed to opt out of Social Security and provide for their own retirement planning?

45% Yes
41% No
13% Not sure

3) Is Social Security a good deal for working Americans today?

46% Yes
37% No
18% Not sure

4) Currently, people pay Social Security taxes on the first $102,000 workers earn each year. People who make more than that do not pay Social Security taxes on salary and wages above that level. Should Social Security taxes be paid on ALL OR MOST OF THE income workers earn each year?

62% Yes
25% No
13% Not sure

5) Should people who pay more in Social Security taxes receive more Social Security benefits when they retire?

62% Yes
24% No
14% Not sure

NOTE: Margin of Sampling Error, +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence


Patrick R. Sullivan said...

53% aren't confident they'll receive all their benefits, yet only 37% think SS isn't a good deal!

Bruce Webb said...


78% of 160% = 125%.
I know Andrew understands the significnce of what I dubbed Rosser's Equation. That you don't says more about you than the resondants to this survey.

It is the difference between 'great deal' and 'good deal'.

Andrew G. Biggs said...

I'm not keen on thinking about Social Security or reform in terms of how good a deal is (the combination of the 'back transfer' to early participants and unfavorable demographics determine what Social Security's rate of return is, and there's not much we can do to fix that).
But whether Social Security is a good deal doesn't just depend on the level of benefits, as your example implies, but on the relation between how much you pay and how much you get. According to SSA's actuaries, a couple retiring today could expect around a 2.3% return on their taxes, while a couple retiring in 2050 can expect around 1.5%. Funded with 12% of their earnings and compounded over their whole lives that's a lot of money, even if the real level of benefits they'll get is higher than today's.