TCS Daily

The Investor Election?

By Duane D. Freese - October 28, 2004 12:00 AM

There is a dirty little secret about Social Security privatization -- and why John Kerry tried to scare seniors about a trumped up Bush "January surprise" to take away their benefits by privatizing their program.

The secret has nothing to do with protecting seniors, or Bush intending to take away their benefits, as Kerry falsely claimed. So, what is it?

A poll released Tuesday conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, at the behest of Investor's Action, a new group founded by TCS host James Glassman found that Bush has an 8 percentage point advantage over Kerry among the 71 percent of likely voters who invest in the markets (margin of error of 3.46). Meanwhile, among those who don't have investments, Kerry holds a 14 percentage point lead.

While polls can be skewed by ignoring demographic groups, this poll looked across the demographic spectrum and found the gap between investors and non-investors held true among all segments. It has what stats geeks call "internal validity."

Among men, non-investors supported Kerry by a 3 point margin, while investors favored Bush by a 19 point margin. Non-investing women, meanwhile, gave Kerry a 22 percentage point margin over Bush, while investing women gave him only a 3 point edge.

The gap is pronounced even across economic classes. The difference between non-investors and investors making less than $40,000 a year -- supposedly a demographic that would favor the Democrats' class warfare arguments -- is even starker. Again, Kerry had a 22 point advantage among non-investing likely voters, but actually trailed Bush by 2 percentage points among those who invested.

While Bush hasn't threatened to "privatize" Social Security as Kerry and liberals have argued, he has shown a favorable attitude toward allowing workers to invest a portion of their contributions in personal accounts, much like Individual Retirement Accounts, in return for accepting a lower federal benefit later.

While most of those within 20 years of retirement -- by a nearly 3-2 margin -- wouldn't switch, the numbers reverse themselves for those under age 44. Indeed, a whopping 64 percent of those under age 35 saying they would switch, according to the poll.

Social Security reform allowing such action, thus, would increase the number of young investors and women investors -- and that increase, as the Bush and Kerry poll breakdown indicates, could prove devastating to future liberal candidates who play Social Security scare cards.

After all, investors like it when the businesses in which they invest make money, and that might make them less disposed to buy into class warfare demagoguery.

TCS columnist Melana Zyla Vickers pointed out in a column on the gender gap in Wednesday's USA Today that women become more conservative as they move through life and gain financial assets and parenting responsibilities.

"In 2000, 63 percent of single women voted for Gore, but only 48 percent of married women did. As the ranks of female business owners and homeowners grow, fewer may be inclined to lean to the political left."

The Investors Action poll confirms that when people gain a personal economic stake in free enterprise they are less supportive of those who attack it. So, it's little wonder that Kerry and other liberals want to kill any Social Security reform in its crib.

What's more, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll last fall found that 82 percent of people under 30 favored personal accounts. If Kerry and other liberals are seen depriving young people of something those young people see as good for them, they may lose a whole generation. But their loss, one might say, would be Americans' gains.


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