The Associated Press has released a poll they commissioned from Ipsos-Public Affairs, and it fits with previous polls and focus groups that show the public disapproves of the way Bush is handling Social Security, in this case by a margin of 56% disapprove to only 37% approve. Of course these numbers mean little by themselves; the crosstabs might show where Bush is failing or holding his own, but as of now the AP and Ipsos-Public Affairs are only releasing the topline results.
I've been casually looking for crosstabs with detailed breakdowns by age, because one of the political rationales given for Bush's desire to implement private accounts is to hook in younger voters who would be enthralled with their admission to the "ownership society" and would then become reliable Republican voters, just as Northern ethnics and Catholics and white working class Southern voters became the foundation of the New Deal Democratic majority.
There is a serious flaw, however, in Karl Rove's theory of hooking in younger voters the way FDR hooked voters with the New Deal. FDR's coalition was solidified by the New Deal. Those voters who became lifelong Democrats did so only after first voting for FDR in 1932 and/or 1936. Their vote was rewarded with the benefits they received as a result of the New Deal. But the majority of young voters didn't vote for Bush, they voted for Kerry. In fact, other than Bob Dole, no Republican at least back to Gerald Ford did as poorly with young voters as did Bush, while in the same period only Reagan did better with voters 60 and older. (For another comparison, in 1988 voters 60 and older only favored G.H.W. Bush by one percentage point, and in 2000 supported Gore over G.W. Bush 51%-47%, but this time flipped to Bush 54%-46%.)
This sets up an interesting and potentially very destabilizing dynamic for the Republicans. By pushing Social Security "reform," Bush and the Republicans risk alienating what's become one of their hard-core constituencies, older Americans. On the other hand, since many young voters already intensely distrust Bush because of the war in Iraq, the possibility of a draft, and his Medieval policies on diversity and social tolerance, there's little reason to think that their distrust would melt away over the issue of privatizing social security.
It's becoming clear that the Congressional Republicans are concerned about this potential loss of older voters without an offsetting gain among young voters. As the War on Social Security grinds on over the next few months, if young voters don't come around to support Bush's plan to privatize Social Security, he may end up unable to enact any significant change to the Social Security system, and Karl Rove's dreams of a Raw Deal coalition could fade into oblivion.