Attitudes and Perceptions of Social Security

Aug 28, 2020 / Amanda Chase, Horsesmouth Assistant Editor

August 14th marked the 85th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act, providing retirement benefits to American workers. It is instrumental in providing a safety net that keeps millions of Americans out of poverty every month and enjoys continued massive public support from Americans of all ages and political parties. To celebrate this anniversary, AARP commissioned a survey of 1,441 Americans ages 18+ to understand their views on Social Security retirement benefits.

This anniversary survey is the fifth conducted by AARP to celebrate Social Security. Overall, the results remain consistent over time and across political party lines.

  • Social Security is deemed an important program by 96 percent of Americans.
  • Over half (56%) indicated that Social Security is more important during the pandemic, relative to before it started.
  • Most disagree that the program is driving up the deficit and the vast majority are reluctant to reduce benefits for solvency.
  • Around 4 in 5 say they will or do rely on Social Security at least somewhat for their retirement income, while 2 in 5 will or do rely on Social Security the most out of all income sources for retirement.

Two thirds of Americans believe the average monthly Social Security retirement benefit of $1503 per month is too low. This includes 71 percent of both Democrats and Independents and 55 percent of Republicans. Nearly three quarters of respondents are concerned that Social Security will not be enough to get by on, including more than two thirds of Republicans (67%) and more than three quarters of Democrats (78%).

57% say they are not confident in the future of the Social Security program, a finding that is similar across parties. The top reasons for this lack of faith include their lack of trust in the government to keep its promises (29%), that the money is running out (26%), and that politicians have taken money from the program in the past (16%). In fact, more than three quarters (76%) express concern that Social Security will not be there for them when they need it.

While confidence in the program is similar between those ages 18-29 and 50-64, it drops precipitously during the 30s and 40s. In fact, only 3 percent of those ages 30-49 are very confident in Social Security’s future.

You can find the full AARP study here.


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