National Review Washington editor and CNN Capital Gang co-host Kate O'Beirne wrongly claimed that a CNN poll "shows 76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea" of private accounts as part of Social Security. In fact, the poll to which she referred showed no such results, and other recent polls that did break down views on Social Security by age offered data that conflicts with O'Beirne's assertion.
O'Beirne's false claim came on the March 19 edition of The Capital Gang, in response to co-host Mark Shields:
SHIELDS: I would point out if the people in the White House feel so good about the polls, thank goodness they haven't seen the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, which shows 35 percent approval for the president's handling of the Social Security issue.
O'BEIRNE: And it shows 76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea of the personal accounts, and people above that age won't be affected by them!
While Shields accurately reported that the poll shows that 35 percent of respondents approve "of the way George W. Bush is handling" Social Security, O'Beirne was wrong to claim that according to the poll,"76 percent of people under age 50 like the idea of the personal accounts." The poll's only question concerning private accounts asked respondents: "Which do you think is riskier for average American workers today: investing some of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds, or relying on the Social Security system to pay them the current level of benefits when they retire?" Forty-six percent said investing in stock and bonds was riskier; 50 percent said relying on the current Social Security system. Further, USA Today's report on the poll did not break down results by demographic criteria such as age.
Other recent polls also undermine O'Beirne's assertion. A poll conducted February 16-21 by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 55 percent of respondents aged 18-54 would invest in private accounts. A summary of the poll, which was titled "Bush Failing in Social Security Push," also reported that actual support for private accounts is 46 percent, and that even among those ages 18-29, the group showing the highest approval for the proposal, support is 68 percent. A Time poll conducted March 15-17 found that only 40 percent of respondents of all ages favor private accounts, while 52 percent oppose them.
A CBS/New York Times poll conducted February 24-28 found that 43 percent "think allowing individuals to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes on their own" is a good idea, while 51 percent think it is a bad idea. And while an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted March 10-13 found that 56 percent of respondents support "a plan in which people who chose to could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market," it also found that only 37 percent support "Bush's proposals on Social Security," with the greatest support (44 percent) coming from respondents ages 30-39.