New CNN Poll: Social Security needs changes, but it's not a failure
September 13th, 2011
06:00 AM ET
11 years ago

New CNN Poll: Social Security needs changes, but it's not a failure

Tampa, Florida (CNN) - Most Americans believe the Social Security system needs major changes but they disagree with the characterization of Social Security as a lie and a failure, according to a new national survey.

And a CNN/ORC International poll released just a few hours after Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed over Social Security at the first-ever CNN/Tea Party Republican presidential debate also indicates that Americans are divided more on generational lines than partisan lines when it comes to the longtime government program for retirees.

Full results (pdf)

In the debate, Romney chided Perry for referring to Social Security as a "Ponzi scheme" and vowed to protect the program. Romney called such language "over the top" and said that Perry wrote in his book "Fed Up!" that the entitlement program is unconstitutional.

Perry responded, saying Romney was trying to "scare" seniors who rely on the federal program.

When Romney persisted on the constitutionality question, Perry said the nation needed to have a serious conversation on the issue, which prompted Romney to cut him off by saying "we're having that conversation right now, governor."

The poll indicates that more than seven out of ten Americans disagree with the statement that Social Security is a "monstrous lie" and a failure.

"That's true for Democrats, independents and Republicans," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "But younger Americans are three times as likely to agree with those statements than older Americans, although a majority of all age groups disagree."

According to the survey, the same is true when Americans are asked about the overall health of Social Security. Only a handful say the system has no serious problems, and roughly a quarter say it has minor problems. Most say the system can be fixed only with major changes, with one in eight favor replacing Social Security with a different system.

"Once again, the principal divisions are based on age, not partisanship, with younger Americans ten times more likely than senior citizens to call for replacing the system," adds Holland.

The poll was conducted for CNN by ORC International September 9-11, with 1,038 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser & CNN Political Reporter Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

- Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @PsteinhauserCNN

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. fmac

    lift the cap problem sloved.

    September 13, 2011 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  2. ZweiStein

    @bill czecher...You are absolutely correct. And if that ss money wasn't there for them to steal, they would have to come up with some other form of taxation.

    September 13, 2011 08:42 am at 8:42 am |
  3. Rick McDaniel

    Social Security is designed, and always was, to have the current taxpayers pay for the current seniors, wihtout regrd to the disparity of numbers between the two groups.

    That gives us a unique problem......if the number of taxpayers falls below the number of seniors, then there will be insufficient funds to fund the system. That is one problem, that absolutely needs to be fixed.

    The second problem, is that the government borrows from those funds to use the money for other things, leaving the system holding US debt, or basically IOU's. The fund should not be used by the government for other things.......that is a major problem.

    The other thing that makes no sense, is to pay SS to a person, then deduct from that amount, a deductible for medicare, and then tax all of those funds for income taxes. That is giving payment on the one hand, and taking it back, with the other hand.

    These are the problems with the system, and these problems need to resolved, and make the system much more reliable, stronger, and the payments to seniors simple, easy to understand, and uncomplicated. When you become a senior, you don't need a myriad of complications to deal with.

    September 13, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  4. blake

    The funding model for social security is a failure. That is not a polling point, it is fact. It is not a self funded program. And the future poses real problems if not dealt with yesterday. Beyond that is the philosophical question of whether this is a federal government responsibility. As a constitutionalist and minimal federal government advocate, my answer is NO. This is an abuse of the federal authority. This can be easily handled by individuals with minimal or no government intervention. And without becoming a the tax burden and the actuarily unsound program that it currently is.

    September 13, 2011 08:52 am at 8:52 am |
  5. barbara

    What is a failure is our government to keep it's mits off the trillion surplus that was in SS. SS is not just a good concept and program.... it is a great program. I'm sure with some brain storming (but does our government have brains?) solutions can be found. Perhpas cutting back on the 2 billion a day we spend in Afganastan would go a long way to replenishing the money the government took.

    September 13, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  6. Chandra

    Social security is an essential retirement safety net for all workers. It has been working well all these years. The ONLY reason it seems at risk now is because its assets were raided over the years for funding BOGUS wars and channeled to corporate friends of politicians. If SS is allowed to be plundered by the greedy millionaire rethug politicians and their friends, it COULD spell the end of the union.

    September 13, 2011 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  7. Use-daPBs

    Far far too many young Americans being misinformed by Faux news – 24 x 365 propaganda – scripted – totally BIASED!!

    September 13, 2011 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  8. Becky Davidson

    I was put on SS disability a year ago at 56 y/o. Who would believe. What would I do without SSDI? If not SS, where would the money be safe? Wall Street? IRA's, 401K? Nothing is safe when it comes to investing at this time. Does any Tea Party candidate give a strong explanation what would work. Do they say how they would create jobs? By the way, I worked for TXdot when Perry took the Stimulus money because a major budget error was made. He used the money to budget the books. HELLO! Perry doesn't talk about how many were laid off and how many budget cuts were made to budget the books. I was on a COBRA Disability Health plan until the premiums were increased. Who can afford $444.00 a month while on SS Disability? I make $25,000 a year. What do Corporations make? Question, will they let me die because I do not have insurance or qualify for Medicare? Does it matter? Doctors find out you have good insurance and too many unnecessary procedures are performed. Thanks for listening. LOVE SOUNDOFF

    September 13, 2011 08:55 am at 8:55 am |
  9. Sunny41

    It would be fine if they would quit dipping into the money and using it for other things. They're the ones hurting it. Quit stealing our money and using it for something else. It's worked fine for years, they're the ones messing it up.

    September 13, 2011 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
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