WASHINGTON -- Americans' enthusiasm for a plan that would let them invest some of their Social Security contributions in the stock market has dropped significantly since late last year, according to an Associated Press poll.
The new survey was taken after two of the toughest weeks the stock market has seen in recent years.
The five-day poll was started a week ago, after the market had just lost over 12 percent of its value in just over two weeks, including its biggest-ever weekly point decline -- an 821.21 point drop in the Dow Jones industrial average -- in mid-March.
Now the public is generally split on support for the Bush administration proposal to allow investment of some Social Security money. In polls taken when economic optimism was stronger late last year, people supported allowing investment of Social Security contributions by a 2-1 margin.
Public enthusiasm for investing in the stock market routinely drops as the market goes down, and increases when things turn around.
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.
Men liked the idea better than women -- 57 percent of men compared with 41 percent of women.
"I've seen comments on TV about the stock market going down," said 21-year-old student Che Mansfield of Statesboro, Ga. "I like to be able to depend on my money 100 percent and not 85 percent."
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.
Two-thirds of the public had at least some confidence in President Bush on dealing with the economy, a number largely unchanged since an AP poll on the economy 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."
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