As Social Security Reaches 80, Americans' Love for Program Remains Strong

An overwhelming majority of Americans supports Social Security’s contribution to the common good, a new AARP survey has found.

The findings (pdf), released on the eve of program’s 80th anniversary, show how vital the program continues to be.

“As we celebrate Social Security on its 80th anniversary, our survey found that it remains as important as ever to American families,” said AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins.

The organization’s national survey of public opinions found that 80 percent of all age groups are currently depending on or plan to depend on Social Security for their retirement income.

Sixty-six percent said that it’s “one of the very most important government programs”—and that’s a perception that’s remained consistent over the past twenty years, the organization found.

Though Democrats were more likely (74 percent) to say that it’s one of the very most important programs, a majority of Republicans—56 percent—agreed.

In addition, 82 percent of respondents said they “think it’s important to continue to contribute to Social Security for the common good.”

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Fifty-five percent of those aged 18-29 said they thought the program wouldn’t be there when they hit retirement, but shortfalls in Social Security could be avoided, according to economist Dean Baker, a co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, with broadly based wage growth. Two reasons account for that, he stated:

Among the reasons to celebrate Social Security’s anniversary, writes Jasmine Tucker, research analyst with the National Priorities Project, is that Social Security is an excellent anti-poverty program:

Most people also want to expand the program, Tucker continues:

That’s a cause shared by a group of 70 Democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), who wrote in a letter to the White House last month that “[a]s Social Security is affordable, universal, efficient, secure, portable, distributionally fair, and popular, expanding its modest benefits should be the number one retirement security recommendation of the White House Conference on Aging.”

Echoing their message, Nancy Altman, president of Social Security Works and chair of the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, said last month that the best way to mark the milestone 80th anniversary—and help address inequality—is by expanding the program’s benefits.

“Social Security is a solution to our looming retirement income crisis, the increasing economic squeeze on middle class families, and the perilous and growing income and wealth inequality,” Altman stated. “In light of these challenges and Social Security’s important role in addressing them, the right question is not how can we afford to expand Social Security, but, rather, how can we afford not to expand it.”

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