Monday :: Mar 14, 2005

New ABC News/Washington Post Poll Affirms Bush Weakness On Social Security - Is It A Matter Of Distrust?


by Steve

The Washington Post previewed the results of their latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, which will be out this afternoon for the evening news. This poll confirms what other polls have found: the more Bush tries to sell privatization, the more support he loses.

Barely a third of the public approves of the way President Bush is dealing with Social Security and a majority says the more they hear about Bush's plan to reform the giant retirement system, the less they like it, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
Bush's overall job approval rating stood at 50 percent, unchanged from last month and nearly exactly where it was a year ago. Currently, 48 percent disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president.
But on Social Security, the president's popularity continues to decline. Thirty-five percent of those surveyed said they approved of the way Bush is handling Social Security, down three points since January and the lowest level of support for Bush on this issue ever recorded in Post-ABC polls.
Bush has made Social Security reform the cornerstone of his domestic policy agenda. But his efforts to win public support for his proposals to change the system appear to be having just the opposite effect, according to the poll.
Nearly six in 10--58 percent--say they are more inclined to oppose administration's reform plans as they learn more about it. Only a third say they are more receptive to Bush's proposals as more details become available.

We don’t know yet what the party ID breakdown is for this poll, but I have a different spin on the approval rating issue. What the Post is trying to tell us is that Bush’s approval rating is unchanged from a year ago, in the context of declining approval ratings for the president on privatizing Social Security, which they call “the cornerstone of his domestic policy agenda.” But look at it another way: being freshly re-elected, with stronger majorities in both houses, and an apparently strengthening economy at home and the appearance of success in the Middle East, Bush’s approval ratings aren’t going up either.

And why is Bush having such difficulty securing support from conservative Democrats he has enticed to assist him previously on tax cuts and other issues?

Trust, or a lack of it. Jackie Colmes in the Wall Street Journal this morning reports that Bush’s habit of stabbing Democrats in the back after they have helped him, and lying to Congress about WMDs, the Medicare drug bill, and other issues has finally caught up to him on Social Security.

The Blue Dogs are angry at Mr. Bush over the intensity of the president's -- and his party's -- campaigning against Democrats who backed him on tax cuts, the Iraq war and other issues. Casualties include a Blue Dogs founder, former Democratic Rep. Charles Stenholm of Texas, who had been a cosponsor of a bipartisan bill to make changes in Social Security similar to those the president seeks.
Conservative Democrats, with unusual passion, say trust is lacking. "It's about credibility," says Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, who says lawmakers got faulty information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Medicare drug-benefit cost estimates and other issues. "So when this guy says, 'We have a crisis in Social Security and trust me to fix it,' the credibility isn't there," he says.

The White House is quick to assume that Democrats will peel off eventually to support Bush, and stupidly asserts that the real reason Democrats won’t work with Bush on Social Security is because organized labor and the AARP won’t let them, as if these two groups can dictate to Congressional Democrats, especially those in the South what to do and say on Social Security. But Chuck Hagel of all people doesn’t buy this White House explanation either, and thinks it is the trust issue, and the payback to Bush for years of treating bipartisan relationships in Washington like toilet paper.

But Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has a private-accounts bill of his own, wonders whether the unity against Mr. Bush on Social Security is the "payback" that he says he and other Republicans warned the White House about. "For every action," he says, "there's a reaction."

Perhaps the issue of trust, on the part of voters who see nothing but stage-managed appearances before Stepford crowds, and members of Congress, who have seen fellow members targeted by the White House after cooperating on tax cuts and Iraq has finally caught up to Bush at a time when he needed credibility the most for his main domestic priority. That would be poetic justice.

Steve :: 8:11 AM :: Comments (23) :: Digg It!