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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What America Thinks: The Spending Squabble

Over $12 trillion dollars has been added to the U.S. national debt since 2000–more than $4 trillion under 8 years of George Bush and $7 trillion plus, so far, under 6 years of Barack Obama. According to Rasmussen Reports polls, the economy remains the number one issue on U.S. voters’ minds, with government spending now ranking as the third most important issue. To put it simply, voters want more spending cuts, but the government just won’t deliver. This has resulted in countless budget battles, debt ceiling debates and, ultimately, a government shutdown. So, have voters and Congress started to see eye-to-eye on spending? We decided to find out what America thinks.

The answer, in short, is no. U.S. Voters historically believe that increased government spending hurts the economy. Nearly half think spending cuts help the economy. Still, with a national debt approaching $18 trillion dollars, most expect government spending to continue go up under the Obama administration. As usual, though, there’s a partisan divide: while Republicans overwhelmingly believe spending increases hurt the economy and cuts help it, 42% of Democrats think spending cuts hurt the economy.

Voters across the board, however, think thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every program of the federal government. With this kind of general agreement, why do voters and Congress seem to be at an infinite standstill? For one thing, Republicans are much less likely to approve of cutting defense spending. Even though 40% of Republican voters recognize that the United States spends more on the military and national security than any other nation in the world, 70% still say it’s not enough. So it’s no surprise then that 57% favor spending cuts in every federal program except the military. The majority of Democrats think military cuts should be considered.

Democrats in Congress don’t want to cut spending for entitlement program such as Social Security and Medicare, but voters, even those in their own party, disagree. Most voters—including 61% of Democrats—don’t want entitlement programs exempt from spending cuts.

Regardless, just 21% of all voters think it’s likely government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years. Democrats are more optimistic than Republicans, but they’re still in the minority.

For Rasmussen Reports, I’m Alex Boyer. Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.