Social Security Choice Paper No. 5

Public Opinion and Social Security Privatization

Executive Summary

Although Social Security remains one of the most popular government programs, most Americans understand that the system faces serious future financial problems and would support privatization of the retirement system, according to the results of a poll conducted by Public Opinion Strategies on behalf of the Cato Project on Social Security Privatization.

Among the poll’s findings:

  • More than 88 percent of Americans believe that Social Security either is in trouble today or will be in trouble within the next 20 years. Fully 60 percent of all Americans under age 65 believe Social Security will not be there for them when they retire.
  • As a result, more than two-thirds (69 percent) believe that Social Security will require “major” or “radical” change within the next 20 years. Among younger voters, approximately half believe that major or radical change is needed today. The support for change cuts across ideological and party lines.
  • Voters reject most traditional Social Security reforms such as raising the retirement age, raising payroll taxes, or reducing benefits.
  • Approximately two-thirds of voters would support privatization of Social Security, transforming the program into a privatized mandatory savings program. More than three-quarters of younger voters support privatization.

Read the Full Social Security Choice Paper

Michael Tanner, director of health and welfare studies at the Cato Institute, is director of the Cato Project on Social Security Privatization.