Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Even though the last session of Congress was one of the biggest spending in history, very few voters are aware that most of today’s federal budget deficit is actually the product of congressional decisions made decades ago.
In fact, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 23% of Likely U.S. Voters are aware that most of the current deficit is the result of spending commitments made by Congress in the 1960s and 1970s. Forty-nine percent (49%) incorrectly believe that’s not the case. Twenty-nine percent (29%) more are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
Government spending in America has gone up every single year since 1954, the year Elvis Presley recorded his first single. It has grown faster than the combination of population growth and inflation every year but one since 1965, the year the Beatles played at Shea Stadium.
Today, most federal spending goes to just three areas of the budget—national security, Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid—and changes made during the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon passed on budget challenges to those of us living in the 21st Century. Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters recognize the impact of these programs on the budget.
The Medicare/Medicaid system was established in 1965 while Johnson was in office, creating spending commitments that continue to challenge budget officials to this day. Nixon oversaw a revision in the benefit formula for Social Security recipients that has proven to be unsustainable despite several increases in Social Security taxes since his time in office. A faulty federal budget process allowed both Johnson and Nixon to pass programs with substantial long-term costs but little short-term budgetary pain while they were in office.
While the official debt ceiling is approximately $14 trillion, the total debt is actually in the range of $70 trillion. Fifty percent (50%) of voters recognize that the official figures understate the problem, and 64% think all liabilities should be included in the totals. The current system was set in place by Johnson in an effort to hide the cost of the Vietnam War and his Great Society programs.
The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 21-22, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.Rasmussen subscribers can log in to read the rest of this article.
ORRasmussen Reader subscribers can now get full access to current articles for 1 year for $24.95
Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.
We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.
Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.
To learn more about our methodology, click here.