Washington Americans' enthusiasm for President Bush's idea of investing Social Security contributions in the stock market has dropped sharply along with the market, says an Associated Press poll.
The poll taken after two of the roughest weeks the market has had in recent years shows they're about evenly split on that idea now.
About half in the poll, 49 percent, said they support a plan to give people the option of investing some of their Social Security contributions, while 44 percent oppose it, says the poll conducted for the AP by ICR of Media, Pa.
"I don't agree with putting Social Security money in the stock market," said 21-year-old student Che Mansfield of Statesboro, Ga. "From what I know, I think the money should be used to help old people. Not everybody participates in the stock market."
The five-day poll was started a week ago, after the market had lost over 12 percent of its value in just over two weeks, including the biggest-ever weekly point decline in the Dow Jones industrial average.
In polls taken late last year, people supported allowing investment of Social Security contributions by a 2-1 margin.
In the new survey, men liked the idea better than women 57 percent of men compared with 41 percent of women. Republicans liked the idea better than Democrats; independents were split. Those between age 18 and 34 liked the idea twice as much as people older than 65. Support for the Social Security proposal was progressively higher among groups with higher incomes.
The poll of 1,007 people was taken from March 23 through Tuesday. It had an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Two-thirds of the public had at least some confidence in Bush on dealing with the economy, a number largely unchanged since an AP poll in January.
"I've got hopes for him," said Carl Latza, a 70-year-old retiree from Cheektowaga, N.Y. "But he's got poor writers. He keeps talking the economy down. I think he'll do all right if he keeps his mouth shut."
Recent polls have suggested that more than half of Americans are concerned that the president's comments about the nation's economic troubles have had an effect.
A majority remained generally skeptical about the stock market, as they were in an AP poll in January. The new survey found that 55 percent of the respondents said if they had $1,000 to spend, it would be a bad idea to invest the money in the stock market.
Again, overall skepticism about stock market investments was higher among those with lower incomes. Two-thirds of those who made less than $25,000 thought investing the money was a bad idea, while just over a third who made more than $75,000 a year thought it was a bad idea.
"If I was 100 percent sure that it would be all right, where I wouldn't lose it and that it would gain interest, I think it would be a pretty good idea for a person to invest the money," said 39-year-old John Prater of Orleans, Mich., who is on disability after a car accident. "But I would say it's a little bit risky."
The poll offered encouragement that more people think the economy should improve in the future 48 percent compared with 34 percent in January who felt that way.
One of those who was upbeat on both the economy's future and the stock market plan for Social Security was Pamela Doherty, a 36-year-old housewife from Saugus, Mass., outside Boston.
"It would be nice to increase your Social Security, to have that option," she said. "If you're hanging in there for the long term it shouldn't be a problem. I'm not touching mine. We've done pretty well with the stock market in the past.