Hannity overstated minority support for private accounts

››› ››› ANDREW SEIFTER

On the March 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity overstated public support for President Bush's proposal to partially privatize Social Security by declaring that "African-Americans, in huge numbers, Hispanic-Americans ... like the idea of this choice." In fact, recent polling indicates that: (1) a plurality of African-Americans oppose private accounts for younger workers; (2) there has been a significant drop in support for such privatization among both groups; and (3) opposition to private accounts by both African-Americans and Hispanics increases when the less desirable potential consequences of privatization are mentioned.

According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted February 16-21, 49 percent of African-Americans oppose "Allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their Social Security taxes in private retirement accounts" compared to 36 percent who favor doing so. While 48 percent of Hispanics support the option of private accounts compared to 34 percent opposed, that support is down 18 percentage points from 66 percent in a December 2004 Pew poll.

Further, a Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies/AARP poll conducted January 15-23 indicated that strong majorities of Hispanics and African Americans oppose privatization when the less desirable potential effects of such a plan are also mentioned in the poll question:

Percent opposing private accounts if it meant... Hispanics African-American
No withdrawals prior to retirement 51% 62%
Lower guaranteed Social Security benefit in retirement 64% 70%
Stock market fluctuations could result in decreased money in retirement 64% 71%
Workers pay management fees associated with private accounts 66% 72%
New government agency created to administer program 57% 63%
Diverting some of Social Security payroll taxes means massive new federal debt in order to pay current benefits 64% 68%
Market losers will need additional help from government 58% 63%
Cuts to your guaranteed Social Security benefits would be so severe that you could not make up the difference with money from your private account 72% 75%
Changes to the way benefits are calculated would result in cuts in guaranteed benefits for everyone, not just people who choose to participate in the private accounts program 66% 70%
Our children could be confronted with two bills: one for the current shortfall and another to meet an additional shortfall due to private accounts 69% 69%

As Media Matters for America has previously noted, prior polls have also indicated that overall support for private accounts decreases dramatically when the accompanying transition costs and guaranteed benefit cuts that would be required are mentioned in the polling question. Media Matters has also exposed conservatives misleadingly attacking the AARP poll mentioned above.

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