Despite the bluster and threats of public reprisal against Democrats, the reality is that private accounts are dead. The media is pretending that the issue is still alive, but the new Washington Post numbers tell the tale better than I can (full poll results):
Three months after President Bush launched his drive to restructure Social Security by creating private investment accounts, public support for his program remains weak, with only 35 percent of Americans now saying they approve of his handling of the issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
While the White House has helped convince more than two-thirds of those polled that Social Security is heading for a crisis or possible bankruptcy without change, 56 percent disapprove of his approach, a survey of 1,001 adults conducted March 10-13 shows. By comparison, 38 percent approved of his handling of the issue and 52 percent disapproved of it in mid-December.
Moreover, 58 percent of those polled this time said the more they hear about Bush's plan, the less they like it. The latest polling, combined with detailed interviews last week, shows that Bush's drive to significantly alter the 70-year-old national insurance program has run into significant hurdles with every age cohort.
35 percent isn't "weak" support; it's catastrophic. But the administration appears to still be pretending otherwise:
"The president knows it's a challenge and is taking it head-on," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said. "He is just getting started, and he's going to keep traveling, pushing and explaining to people of all ages why Social Security needs to be fixed permanently and why it's best that personal accounts be part of the solution."
I'll keep repeating it from now until this debate is over -- the president of the United States generally cannot move the numbers on a domestic issue like this. Coming back from 35% support is near-impossible. When will everyone involved face facts?
Would you support or oppose a plan in which people who chose to could invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market?
Several points should be made here. First, this is a superficial question that makes it sound like there are no tradeoffs involved with the creation of private accounts. Questions that incorporate those tradeoffs show very low support. Second, Bush's "plan" or "approach" to the issue is viewed negatively by most of the public, and that is a broader question that incorporates all of his proposals (or quasi-proposals), not just private accounts. Finally, questions that specifically poll about other aspects of Bush's plan, such as benefit cuts, show overwhelming opposition.
If you don't believe me, just read down the Social Security page on PollingReport.com, which includes all the recent national poll questions about the issue. With just a handful of exceptions, you'll see a pattern of low and declining support for private accounts.