AARP, the high-profile lobbying group for the roughly 36 million Americans over 50, has come out swinging in the fight over Social Security reform with the release of a poll showing a lack of support for President Bush's plan to allow investors to divert some of their Social Security taxes into private accounts.

According to a survey of 1,500 adults ages 30 and over conducted for AARP by Roper Public Affairs, 60 percent believed that private accounts would hurt the 70-year-old program.

While 43 percent initially supported the concept of diverting payroll contributions to fund private accounts, barely a quarter continued to support private accounts if it meant a lower Social Security benefit in retirement, according to those surveyed.

The estimated $1 trillion in additional debt needed to pay Social Security benefits to current beneficiaries reduced support to 18 percent of respondents, while AARP said that leaving responsibility for this debt and for Social Security's current estimated shortfall to our children reduced support to 17 percent.

According to the AARP poll, more than two-thirds of people under age 50 aren't confident that Social Security will be there for them, while the majority of all those polled (83 percent) agreed that Social Security should be strengthened, rather than replaced.

Two-thirds (66 percent) of Americans age 30 and above support keeping Social Security as is, including six in 10 (62 percent) of Gen Xers ages 30 to 39. A similar number of leading-edge Baby Boomers ages 50 to 59 (65 percent) and a clear majority (57 percent) of Boomers ages 40 to 49 agreed, according to the poll.

The partisan anti-privatization poll followed a $5 million AARP advertising blitz designed to battle the president's plan for partial privatization.

The effort was comprised of full-page ads in roughly 50 newspapers across the country. One of the ads displayed a picture of stock traders with the tagline, "Winners and losers are stock market terms. Do you really want them to become retirement terms?"

Another showed a couple saying, "If we feel like gambling, we'll play the slots."

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