Changing Attitudes Toward Social Security Spending

Apr 2, 2018 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

For 30 years, the General Social Survey has been asking Americans questions about everything from politics to civil liberties to religion and spirituality. It’s data is freely available and easy to persuse. One question in particular is relevant to this blog: Is the government spending too much, too little, or just the right amount on Social Security? The results are somewhat surprising.

For virtually the entire 30 years this question has been asked, retirees have been less likely to say that the government spends too little on Social Security, and more likely to say that government spending is “about right,” than other age groups. In 2012 only 43% of those older than 65 thought spending was too little, while 54% of 18-49-year-olds thought so, and 58% of 50-64-year-olds.

But then in 2014, trends shifted and all groups except 18-34-year-olds began to say that government spends too little on Social Security. By 2015, 62% of those ages 35-65+ said that government spent too little. Data shows that overall incomes did not change during this time period. So why the attitude shift?

One Forbes contributor posits that the change comes from the deeply human feeling of, “Where’s mine?” In 2013, the Obamacare exchanges opened. Might retirees have felt that if the government was committing itself to extra spending, they deserved some too? It's just one theory to a puzzling trend.

To read the full Forbes article, click here.


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