New AARP Survey Results Show Need for Increased Public Education on Social Security Proposals

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WASHINGTON (JR) -- Results from a new AARP survey indicate a strong need for more public education and debate on retirement security issues and proposals to modify Social Security including privatization.

The survey, Individual Accounts, Social Security, and the 2000 Election, finds that initial public support for individual account proposals declines when American voters are asked to consider a variety of possible consequences.

"Americans strongly value Social Security, but it is clear that they need a greater understanding of the trade-offs that may be involved in any proposals to strengthen the program," said AARP Associate Executive Director Bill Novelli.

The AARP survey measures public opinion about two generic individual account approaches -- the so called "carve-out" approach and the "add-on" approach -- that have been suggested as ways to strengthen retirement security. The survey did not address specific plans proposed by the presidential candidates.

The carve-out approach proposes that workers be allowed to invest a portion of the amount they already pay in Social Security payroll taxes in the stock market through individual accounts. The add-on approach provides that, in addition to what they are paying into Social Security, workers will be encouraged to contribute an additional amount into tax-favored individual accounts.

The survey confirms that Social Security will play a major role in this year's presidential election. Almost eight in ten Americans consider the candidates' positions on Social Security to be the most important, or one of the most important, issues affecting how they will vote.

Social Security also emerges as a top priority when it comes to how to use the overall budget surplus, with seven in 10 saying the surplus should be used to make the program more financially sound. …