Poll: Spending on social programs more important than fighting deficit
The great irony in THIS MATTER is that Republicans generally are ignorant of the progress that’s been made in reducing the budget deficit in the past year:
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Dec. 3-8 among 2,001 adults, finds majorities say it is more important to maintain spending on Social Security and Medicare and programs to help the poor than to take steps to reduce the budget deficit. Nearly seven-in-ten (69%) say it is more important to maintain current Social Security and Medicare benefits than to reduce the deficit, while 59% prioritize keeping current levels of spending for programs that help the poor and needy over deficit reduction.
There is greater public support for cutting military spending in order to achieve deficit reduction. About half of Americans (51%) say reducing the deficit is more important than keeping military spending at current levels, while 40% say deficit reduction is more important.
Views of tradeoffs between government spending and deficit reduction are divided along partisan lines, and the differences are especially pronounced when it comes to programs that aid the poor and needy. Fully 84% of Democrats say it is more important to keep current spending levels for these programs than to reduce the deficit. A majority of Republicans (55%) say cutting the deficit is more important than maintaining current spending for programs to help the poor.
By contrast, majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (66%) and Republicans (62%) say it is more important to continue current spending levels for Social Security and Medicare than to take steps to reduce the budget deficit.
The survey finds that at a time when the nation’s annual budget deficit has fallen considerably over the past year, according to the Office of Management and Budget, most Americans do not think the country has made progress in reducing the deficit. Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say the country has not made progress in reducing the federal budget deficit, while just 29% say progress has been achieved.
In general terms, the public continues to support a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to reduce the federal budget deficit. About six-in-ten (63%) say the best way to reduce the deficit is with a combination of cuts in major programs and tax increases; 20% say the primary focus should be on spending cuts and just 7% say it should be on raising taxes. Since 2010, majorities have supported a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, though last December somewhat more (74%) favored this approach.
Republicans, by a 55%-to-35% margin, say it is more important to take steps to reduce the deficit than to preserve current spending on programs to aid the poor and needy. Fully 84% of Democrats and 53% of independents favor maintaining current levels of spending on aid to the poor over deficit reduction.
Tea Party Republicans, in particular, prioritize deficit reduction over programs to aid the poor. Nearly three-quarters of Republicans and Republican leaners who agree with the Tea Party (73%) say deficit reduction is more important than preserving present levels of spending on programs to aid the poor and needy. Just 48% of non-Tea Party Republicans express this view, while about as many (44%) say that maintaining spending on these programs is more important.
There also are substantial partisan differences over whether it is more important to keep current levels of military spending or to reduce the deficit. In this case, most Democrats (60%) rate deficit reduction as more important, compared with 53% of independents and just 36% of Republicans. Liberal Democrats are especially likely to say it’s more important to reduce the deficit (72%) than maintain military spending (21%); among conservative and moderate Democrats, 54% prioritize the deficit, 40% military spending.
Across party lines, the public is unwilling to cut Social Security and Medicare to take steps to reduce the deficit. This view is held by majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (66%) and Republicans (62%). However, there are differences among Republicans. Just 45% of Republicans and GOP leaners who agree with the Tea Party prioritize maintaining current levels of spending on Social Security and Medicare, compared with 66% of non-Tea Party Republicans.
In the current survey, there are very few consistent “deficit hawks” – those who prioritize the deficit over keeping current levels of spending in all three areas tested (military, aid to needy, Social Security and Medicare). Just 9% of the public consistently says deficit reduction is more important than the three areas of spending tested; this percentage is not much higher within the GOP (14%) or among Tea Party Republicans (18%)…
In a year that saw deep, automatic spending cuts as part of the budget sequestration, but failed to produce a long-term agreement addressing entitlements and the tax code, the public does not believe the country has made progress reducing the budget deficit. Two-thirds (66%) say that over the course of the last year, the country has not made progress reducing the budget deficit; just 29% say it has.
There is deep disagreement between Republicans and Democrats on whether or not the country has made progress on the deficit in the last year.
Half of Democrats (50%), including 60% of liberal Democrats, say the country has made progress reducing the budget deficit over the course of 2013. By contrast, nearly nine-in-ten Republicans (87%) say the country has not made progress on the deficit. Among independents, 73% say the country has not made progress on the deficit, 23% say it has.