Poll: Bush Out of Step at Home

NEW YORK -- U.S. President George W. Bush does not share the priorities of most of America on either domestic or foreign issues, Americans are increasingly resistant to his proposal to revamp Social Security, and they are also uneasy with Bush's ability to make the right decisions about the retirement program, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

The poll underscores just how little headway Bush has made in his effort to build popular support as his proposal for overhauling Social Security struggles to gain footing in Congress. At the same time, a growing number of respondents say that efforts to restore order in Iraq are going well, even as an overwhelming number of Americans say Bush has no clear plan for getting out of Iraq.

On Social Security, 51 percent said permitting individuals to invest part of their Social Security taxes in private accounts, the centerpiece of Bush's plan, was a bad idea. The number who thought private accounts were a bad idea jumped to 69 percent if respondents were told that the private accounts would result in a reduction in guaranteed benefits. And 45 percent said Bush's private account plan would actually weaken the economic underpinnings of the nation's retirement system.

In a sign of the political obstacles confronting the White House, a majority said they would support raising the amount of income subject to Social Security payroll tax above its current ceiling of $90,000, an idea floated by Bush but shot down by Republican Congressional leaders. Yet there is strong resistance to other options available to Bush and lawmakers to repair the system, in particular to raising the retirement age or making participation voluntary.

Notwithstanding Bush's argument that citizens should be given more control over their retirement savings, almost four out of five respondents said it was the government's responsibility to assure a decent standard of living for the elderly.

In an apparent reflection of the success of the Iraq elections, 53 percent of those surveyed said that efforts to bring order to Iraq were going very or somewhat well, up from 41 percent a month ago. That is the highest rating on that score since the capture of Saddam Hussein.

Still, 42 percent now say that Bush would have been better off trying to counter the threat of North Korea before invading Iraq, compared with 45 percent who think Bush was correct to focus first on Iraq.

More broadly, Bush does not appear to be in step with the nation on what the White House has long viewed as his strong suit: 58 percent of respondents said the White House did not share the foreign affairs priorities of most Americans.

For all that, Bush's approval rating remains unchanged, at 49 percent, from a month ago, suggesting that the disagreement with Bush's ideas has yet to take a toll on America's view of him.