Robert Samuelson used his column to tell readers that people in the United States really are different than in other countries. Samuelson wrote:

"One standard question asks respondents to judge which is more important — 'freedom to pursue life’s goals without state interference' or 'state guarantees [that] nobody is in need.' By a 58 percent to 35 percent margin, Americans favored freedom over security, reported a 2011 Pew survey. In Europe, opinion was the opposite. Germans valued protections over freedom 62 percent to 36 percent. The results were similar for France, Britain and Spain."

There are many people in the United States who do not recognize that Medicare is a government program. (Hence the frequent demand from Tea Party conservatives that the government keeps its hands off their Medicare.) It is likely they believe the same about Social Security. These people may highly value the security provided by these programs while at the same time denigrating the importance of state guarantees because they don't recognize the connection of these programs to the state.

Insofar as this is the case, the difference in polling on this question may reflect differences in knowledge rather than differences in values.