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Inside Politics

Poll: Support lags for Social Security plan

President Bush talks to reporters at a Thursday night news conference.
George W. Bush

(CNN) -- President Bush has made overhauling Social Security a key part of his second-term agenda and has spent weeks on the road discussing the subject, but a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that just over a third of respondents approve of his handling of the issue.

The poll, conducted April 29 to May 1, found that 81 percent of respondents believed that the program would need major changes in the coming years.

Thirty-five percent of respondents said they approved of Bush's handling of Social Security, while 58 percent said they disapproved.

The poll was based on telephone interviews with 1,006 adults and had a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.

Forty-five percent of respondents said that changes would be needed in a year or two and 36 percent said those changes would be needed within 10 years. Sixteen percent said Social Security would not need to be changed within 10 years.

But 46 percent said they would be better off if Congress did not pass a plan this year, while 27 percent said a plan favored by most Republicans would be better and 22 percent favored a plan supported by most Democrats.

Almost two-thirds of respondents, 62 percent, said it would not be possible to ensure Social Security's long-term future without either raising their taxes or cutting their benefits. Thirty-five percent said it would be possible.

When asked which they would prefer, 53 percent said they would rather raise Social Security taxes and 38 percent said they would rather curb benefits for future recipients.

Fifty-three percent said they believed Bush's proposals would cut the benefits that they would receive, while 38 percent said they would not.

Bush has proposed allowing people born after 1950 to invest part of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds and to decrease the growth rate of benefits for all but the lowest-income recipients.

Forty-four percent of respondents said favored investing Social Security dollars in the stock market, while 52 percent opposed the idea.

When asked if they supported a proposal that would curb Social Security benefits for middle and upper income workers, but would not affect lower income workers, 38 percent favored the idea and 54 percent opposed it.

Bush job performance

Respondents were almost equally divided on Bush's job performance, with 48 percent saying they approved of the way he was handling the job of president and 49 percent saying they disapproved.

On other issues:

  • Forty-five percent of respondents said they approved of Bush's handling of foreign affairs and 49 percent said they disapproved.
  • Forty-two percent said they approved of his handling of Iraq, compared to 55 percent who said they disapproved.
  • Forty-three percent approved of his handling of the economy while 53 percent disapproved.
  • Just over a third of respondents, 34 percent, approved of Bush's handling of energy issues, while 52 percent disapproved.
  • Twenty-seven percent of respondents said they approved of Bush's handling of gas prices, and 67 percent said they disapproved.

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