Center for American Progress

Polling Shows Americans Want Retirement Policy Reform

Polling Shows Americans Want Retirement Policy Reform

Polling indicates that Americans are worried about their ability to retire and want policymakers to take action.

Read the full issue brief (CAP Action)

Americans are deeply worried about their retirement security and are calling on elected officials to take action. In poll after poll, the public has made clear that their ability to afford a comfortable retirement is among their primary concerns and that they believe retirement reform should be a much higher priority in Washington. Unfortunately, outside of Social Security, retirement policy has rarely been a topic of political debate, and in recent years, little has been achieved in the way of implementing real change.

As this review of polling on retirement security shows, however, the time for action is now. Among its most important findings are:

  • In the wake of the Great Recession, Americans’ confidence in their ability to save enough for retirement has reached record lows.
  • A majority of the public believes the existing retirement system is under stress and requires immediate reform.
  • Americans think retirement security is a responsibility to be shared by workers, employers, and the government.
  • Support for retirement reform is strong among Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike.
  • Americans want to strengthen Social Security and do not want to cut benefits.
  • To supplement Social Security, Americans are open to a variety of potential fixes to the current private system, ranging from small alterations to more significant restructuring. The public seems most supportive of approaches that combine elements of 401(k)s and pensions, such as the Secure, Affordable, Flexible, and Efficient, or SAFE, Retirement Plan, developed by the Center for American Progress, or the USA Retirement Funds Plan proposed by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Policymakers should listen to their constituents and begin taking action to improve all parts of the three-legged stool of retirement—Social Security, workplace retirement plans, and private savings. Without such changes, the public’s anxiety over retirement may only worsen; but more importantly, an ever-increasing number of Americans may find themselves approaching the end of their working years unprepared for what lies ahead.

Read the full issue brief (CAP Action)

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Keith Miller

Senior Research Associate