An update on yesterdays

An update on yesterday’s discussion of the ABC/WaPo poll on Social Security — and this one’s a pretty big deal.

Last night I wrote that the poll showed that 53% of respondents favored private accounts but that number dropped to 46% (with 47% opposed) when costs of up to $2 trillion were added to the equation.

But it seems that’s incorrect and the real finding was far more favorable.

I went back and looked at what appears to be a revised version of the Post story I referenced yesterday to see exactly what they said. But even the revised version states: “The president also has at least general support from 53 percent of the public for the concept of letting people control some of their contributions to invest in the market … Support dropped to an even split when people were told that the cost of the transition to a new program could reach $2 trillion over time …”

The original version of the article, I believe, provided the specific numbers, but this reference to an “even split” is clearly a reference to the numbers falling to 46% for, 47% against. Or at least I can’t see any other way of interpreting it.

All I can figure is that the authors of the piece weren’t clear on what the numbers actually said. (I don’t say that lightly; they’re both solid reporters. But I don’t see any other way to interpret how they characterize the data.) This is clear in ABC’s compilation of the data; and it’s noted in their write-up of the poll as well. Indeed, if you look at the section of the Post’s complete poll data which references this question, you’ll see quite clearly that this question was “asked [only] of those who support a stock market option.”

That means that it’s not 46% of respondents who still support private accounts but only 46% of the originally-private-account-supporting 53%. Or, in other words, just under 25% of respondents support Bush’s plan once they know the costs and an overwhelming 69% oppose it.

That’s a pretty big difference.

[ed. note: A special thanks to readers JD and SC for flagging my attention to this point.]