Majority Want to Cut Government Spending, But Not THEIR Spending

By Harris Interactive, Special for US Daily Review.

While many polls have shown that large numbers of people want to reduce “government spending” and reduce the budget deficit, a new Harris Pollfinds that only rather small minorities of the public want to cut most of the biggest federal government programs.  Only 12% of the public want to see a cut in Social Security payments, 21% want to cut federal aid to education and 22% want to cut federal health care programs.  The only programs of the 20 listed in the poll that majorities of Americans want to cut are foreign economic aid (79%), foreign military aid (74%), subsidies to business (57%), spending by regulatory agencies (56%), the space program (52%) and federal welfare spending (52%).

The poll also finds that Republicans are much more likely than Democrats to want to cut many government programs and thatTea Party supporters are particularly supportive of cutting specific programs

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,056 adults surveyed online between February 6 and 13, 2012 by Harris Interactive.

In addition to the services which majorities of the pubic do not want to cut, pluralities (but not majorities) oppose cutting federal housing programs (by 50% to 40%), scientific research (by 50% to 40%), defense (by 49% to 42%), farm subsidies (by 46% to 42%), and food stamps (by 49% to 43%).

Trends over time

The Harris Poll first asked these questions thirty-two years ago, in 1980, towards the end of Jimmy Carter’s presidency.  At that time substantially more people wanted to cut all these areas of government spending than do so today.  For example 23% wanted to cut Social Security payments (compared to 12% now), 65% wanted to cut spending on food stamps (compared to 43% now), and 59% wanted to cut Federal highway financing (compared to 25% now). In spite of the current concern about the size of the budget deficit, far fewer people today want to cut specific government programs.

The Different Opinions of Tea Party Supporters and Partisans of the Two Parties

Unsurprisingly Democrats and Republicans have somewhat different opinions on these issues. Far more Republicans than Democrats want to cut some, but not all, of these programs.  For example, Republicans are much more likely to favor cutting federal welfare spending (72% compared to 36%), food stamps (61% vs. 28%), pollution control (59% vs. 21%), federal job training programs (47% vs. 18%), health care (37% vs. 10%) and federal aid to education (35% vs. 9%).  On the other hand Democrats are much more in favor of cutting defense spending than are Republicans (54% vs. 27%).

Tea Party supporters are even more likely to favor cutting government programs including food stamps (66%), federal housing programs (65%), spending for mass transit (56%), health care (44%) and aid to education (41%).

So What?

These polling data point to the different language and messages that are, and will be, used by Republicans and Democrats in this election year.  Republicans will talk about cutting spending and reducing the budget deficit, with references to foreign aid, welfare and food stamps, while Democrats will accuse the Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security, Medicare, and education. Who will get the better of this debate remains to be seen.

TABLE 1
CUTTING GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS
“Below is a list of different areas of federal government spending. For each, please indicate if you would favor a major cut in spending, a minor cut, no cut at all, or would you increase spending in this area?”

Base: All Adults

FAVOR

CUT

(NET)

Major

cut

Minor

cut

OPPOSE

CUT

(NET)

No cut in

Spending

Increase in spending Not at

all

sure

% % % % % % %
Foreign economic aid 79 53 26 12 10 2 9
Foreign military aid 74 46 27 17 14 4 9
Subsidies to business 57 27 29 31 24 7 12
Spending by the regulatory agencies generally 56 26 31 28 23 5 16
Space programs 52 23 29 39 26 13 9
Federal welfare spending 52 26 25 39 32 7 9
The food stamp program 43 19 24 49 36 13 8
Farm subsidies 42 20 22 46 35 11 12
Defense spending 42 16 26 49 35 14 9
Federally funded scientific research programs 40 14 27 50 33 17 10
Federal housing programs 40 16 24 50 35 15 10
Pollution control 37 14 23 53 36 17 10
Spending for mass transportation 35 12 23 54 32 22 10
Federal aid to cities 33 10 22 57 43 14 10
Federal job training programs 32 11 21 58 34 23 11
Revenue sharing with states and cities 26 9 17 58 46 12 16
Federal highway financing 25 6 20 65 42 23 10
Health care 22 8 13 70 34 36 8
Federal aid to education 21 9 12 70 34 36 9
Social security payments 12 4 8 80 50 31 8

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.


TABLE 2
CUTTING GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS BY POLITICAL PARTY
“Below is a list of different areas of federal government spending. For each, please indicate if you would favor a major cut in spending, a minor cut, no cut at all, or would you increase spending in this area?”
Summary of those saying “Favor major cut” or “Favor minor cut”

Base: All Adults

Total Political Party Tea Party
Supporters
Rep. Dem. Ind.
% % % % %
Foreign economic aid 79 85 72 85 89
Foreign military aid 74 73 71 79 77
Subsidies to business 57 66 54 55 67
Spending by the regulatory agencies generally 56 70 44 60 76
Space programs 52 52 56 52 51
Federal welfare spending 52 72 36 54 74
The food stamp program 43 61 28 46 66
Farm subsidies 42 43 41 49 52
Defense spending 42 27 54 44 31
Federally funded scientific research programs 40 54 29 43 58
Federal housing programs 40 59 25 42 65
Pollution control 37 59 21 39 61
Spending for mass transportation 35 48 23 39 56
Federal aid to cities 33 48 20 37 54
Federal job training programs 32 47 18 33 53
Revenue sharing with states and cities 26 34 19 27 40
Federal highway financing 25 32 22 26 37
Health care 22 37 10 22 44
Federal aid to education 21 35 9 24 41
Social security payments 12 13 9 14 19

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100% due to rounding.

TABLE 3
CUTTING SPECIFIC GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS – TREND
“Below is a list of different areas of federal government spending. For each, please indicate if you would favor a major cut in spending, a minor cut, no cut at all, or would you increase spending in this area?”
Summary of those saying “favor a major cut” or “favor a minor cut”

Base: All Adults

Favor Cut (NET) Change
1980-
2012
1980 2008 2011 2012
% % % % %
Foreign economic aid 82 74 75 79 -3
Foreign military aid 77 69 69 74 -3
Subsidies to business 69 62 51 57 -12
Spending by the regulatory agencies generally 72 53 56 56 -16
Space programs 66 49 54 52 -14
Federal welfare spending 69 52 51 52 -17
The food stamp program 65 43 40 43 -22
Farm subsidies 53 44 42 42 -11
Defense spending 34 35 41 42 +8
Federally funded scientific research programs 51 35 42 40 -11
Federal housing programs 54 39 41 40 -14
Pollution control 49 22 37 37 -12
Spending for mass transportation 42 28 35 35 -7
Federal aid to cities 58 33 34 33 -25
Federal job training programs NA NA NA 32 NA
Revenue sharing with states and cities 53 30 28 26 -27
Federal highway financing 59 24 31 25 -34
Health care 37 12 24 22 -15
Federal aid to education 37 17 21 21 -16
Social security payments 23 8 11 12 -11

Note: Please note that in 1980, this survey was conducted by telephone

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 6 and 13, 2012 among 2,056 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

J41216
Q805

The Harris Poll® #24, March 1, 2012
By Humphrey Taylor, Chairman, The Harris Poll

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American and European offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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