Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Byron York on Polling and Social Security

Byron York on Polling and Social Security : "'What people have been doing is judging Bush on things he hasn't been doing,' says the Republican pollster David Winston. 'Bush has just wanted to establish that there is a serious problem with Social Security, and he's done that. He hasn't really been trying to engage, the 'what's the best solution' question, although I think you're seeing him enter that phase now. But they want to judge him on how well people like his plan, which doesn't yet exist.'
That judgment leads to the assumption that the president is faltering. While that might ultimately prove correct, at the moment it seems safe to say that the president's position is as valid as that of his critics. For example, while the Post's print-edition story on its poll began, 'Three months after President Bush launched his drive to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for his program remains weak,' it might just as accurately have begun, 'Three months after Democratic leaders launched their drive to stop President Bush's plan to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for those accounts has risen to its highest level in four years.' Which interpretation more accurately describes what is going on?"

"...on the question of Social Security, the Times, like the Post, found substantial belief that the public supports some sort of action in the near future. For example, 68 percent of respondents told the Times that they believed the Social Security system was either in crisis or in serious trouble. And then 55 percent said that the system's problems are so serious that they must be fixed right now.

That sort of feeling is exactly what the White House wants to hear. It's not making it into the headlines, or the lead sentences, or sometimes even the entire stories, in the newspapers and network accounts of the Social Security battle. But it is going on, and the White House will be counting on it in the next few months."

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