Responding to a recent USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll indicating a significant drop in public support for President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security, New York Post Washington bureau chief Deborah Orin declared, "[L]et's not get carried away with one particular poll," then cherry-picked a single result from a different poll by Marist College. But Orin ignored another question in the Marist poll that specifically gauged support for Bush's plan, the results of which matched Gallup's finding that support for the plan has significantly eroded.
The Gallup poll, conducted February 25-27, showed that only 35 percent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of Social Security, while 56 percent disapprove. This poll showed a decline in support for Bush compared to a previous Gallup poll, conducted February 4-6, that showed 43 percent approved of Bush's plan, while 48 percent disapproved.
After host Chris Matthews referenced the recent Gallup poll on the March 1 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Orin urged caution and cited the Marist poll to suggest that support for Bush's plan is indeed strong:
MATTHEWS: Deborah, the president has really been putting out all the stops. He's around the country. He's spending a lot of gas going around the country, flying to about a dozen states. The numbers are going down the more he campaigns.
ORIN: Well, you know, let's not get carried away with one particular poll. There was a Marist poll last week which had some interesting numbers in it -- asked, "Who do you trust on Social Security? Democrats in Congress, Republicans in Congress, the president?" ... And for Democrats in Congress it was 41 percent, I think 25 percent [for] Republicans in Congress, 16 percent [for] the president. So split party, 41-41.
But Orin ignored another question in the Marist poll, conducted February 14-16, that directly measured public support for Bush's plan. When the Marist poll asked, "Do you strongly approve, approve, disapprove, or strongly disapprove of President Bush's plan for Social Security?" the results resembled that of the USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll: Only 7 percent "strongly approve" of Bush's plan, while 27 percent "approve" of it, 29 percent "disapprove", and 23 percent "strongly disapprove." The poll also indicated that 52 percent of Americans believe "allowing private investments for Social Security" is a "bad idea" compared with 40 percent who believe it is a "good idea."