To say Bush's priorities aren't polling well would be to understate the remarkable reverse-Midas touch he's been demonstrating. I'm convinced that every time he utters the words "Social Security", Americans decide it's 2% less important than it was before they heard him. I't's the boomerang of his own tactics. By consciously making himself such a polarizing figure, everything he does or wants to do is viewed as partisan warfare. As such, voters aren't evaluating his case for Social Security privatization but instead categorizing it as another left-right battle and, all things considered, they'd rather not see their pension plan made into a political football. And so this is what we've come to -- Republican manipulation of objective reporting has managed to delegitimize any and every domestic priority as just another handful of mashed potatoes in the ongoing partisan foodfight, and the more politicians speak about crises, the less Americans believe there actually is one. Ranking their domestic priorities, Americans give jobs an effortless lead with 32%, health care an easy second with 29%, and Social Security trails in the background with a paltry 19%. This despite the fact that Americans don't think Social Security will be able to pay out their benefits (49%-34%). But even with their pessimism, they'd prefer the Democratic party handled the issue, 48%-31%. Personal accounts are judged a bad idea, 51% to 43%, which is a perfect switch from four years ago, when they were thought a good plan 51% to 45%.
Elsewhere in the polls, 53% of Americans favor either gay marriage or civil unions, while 42% oppose legal recognition. 75% support some level of abortion rights, and they favor the Democratic party on choice, 45%-35%. Not only that, but they favor the Democratic party on gays, 44%-36%. The tax cuts aren't particularly popular with 43% hoping they become permanent and 40% hoping they expire. 90%(!) think the budget deficit is "very" or "somewhat" serious, and only 10% think Bush's new budget will make it smaller. 95% are "very" or "somewhat" concerned about health care, 59% think the system needs "fundamental" changes, and 29% think we need to rebuild it from scratch.
The whole poll -- and it's huge -- is fascinating, and you can download it here. In sum, though, bad news for Bush. Where Americans agree with him, they don't want him doing anything about it. Where they disagree with him, they don't want him touching anything. They trust neither his instincts nor competence, and despite feeling that the country faces some real problems, the ones they're really scared of aren't the ones Bush is addressing. Moreover, Bush has actually screwed himself -- the deficit he's created has not only destroyed support for costly Social Security reform (when voters are told privatization busts the deficit, the already minority supports becomes microscopic) but has eroded support for cementing the tax cuts. That his own fiscal profligacy may deny him his policy legacies is fine and fitting. It's the revenge of the reality-based community.