August 12, 2005--The recent debate over the role of private investment in Social Security reform has strengthened public confidence in the program as it stands, rather than weakened it, a new AARP survey showed.

The survey, "Social Security 70th Anniversary Survey Report: Trends Over Time," released Thursday, found that Social Security has outpaced pensions and personal savings as the most important source of income respondents relied on, or expected to rely on, in retirement. Forty-four percent of those surveyed said they "lack confidence" in privately investing the money they put into Social Security, an increase of five percentage points from results in a 1995 AARP survey. Some two-thirds of respondents, who included both retirees and non-retirees, agreed with the statement that "everyone who pays into Social Security should receive it no matter what income they have."

Earlier this year, the Bush Administration put Social Security reform at the top of its policy agenda, focusing on a shift from public funds to personal savings and investments. It has since backed away from the issue.

"The American public clearly values Social Security, and the Administration just miscalculated their attitudes," said John Rother, AARP's policy director. He added that public confidence in the stock market has dwindled in recent years, a crucial point for any Social Security reform scenario involving private investment of those contributions. If nothing else, Rother said, the debate has sparked renewed awareness in Social Security reform.

Earlier today, Rother led several hundred AARP members and supporters at a rally on Capitol Hill, urging the Administration to re-think its Social Security agenda. "It's our hope that the debate about the future of Social Security will come back in a more constructive way," Rother said.

AARP, a nonprofit organization of over 35 million retirement-age members, released similar reports on Social Security in 1985 and 1995. Thursday's report surveyed 1,200 adults nationwide between July 18 and July 26, 2005.