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Americans overwhelmingly favor big defense cuts

May 10, 2012: 4:03 PM ET

With annual budget deficits now routinely topping $1 trillion, a majority of Americans favor cutting defense spending, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by the Center for Public Integrity, the Program for Public Consultation and the Stimson Center, shows that 90% of Democrats and 67% of Republicans want less spending at the Pentagon.

The survey's methodology is interesting. Instead of simply asking Americans whether they favor more, less or the same amount of defense spending, the pollsters include an education component that includes all sorts of facts and figures about the federal budget.

The Center for Public Integrity characterized their findings this way:

According to the survey, in which respondents were told about the size of the budget as well as shown expert arguments for and against spending cuts, two-thirds of Republicans and nine in 10 Democrats supported making immediate cuts — a position at odds with the leaderships of both political parties.

The average total cut was around $103 billion, a substantial portion of the current $562 billion base defense budget, while the majority supported cutting it at least $83 billion. These amounts both exceed a threatened cut of $55 billion at the end of this year under so-called "sequestration" legislation passed in 2011, which Pentagon officials and lawmakers alike have claimed would be devastating.

...

A broad disagreement with the Obama administration's current spending approach — keeping the defense budget mostly level — was shared by 75 percent of men and 78 percent of women, all of whom instead backed immediate cuts. That view was also shared by at least 69 percent of every one of four age groups from 18 to 60 and older, although those aged 29 and below expressed much higher support, at 92 percent.

Disagreement with the Obama administration's continued spending on the war in Afghanistan was particularly intense, with 85 percent of respondents expressing support for a statement that said in part, "it is time for the Afghan people to manage their own country and for us to bring our troops home." A majority of respondents backed an immediate cut, on average, of $38 billion in the war's existing $88 billion budget, or around 43 percent.

Earlier Thursday, CNNMoney published a look at Mitt Romney's plan for defense spending. By one estimate, the former Massachusetts governor would increase spending by more than $2 trillion over the next decade.

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About This Author
Charles Riley
Charles Riley
Reporter, CNNMoney

Charles Riley lives and works in Hong Kong, where he covers markets, economics and other high-impact stories across Asia. He previously worked for CNNMoney in New York and CNN in Washington. He tweets @CRrileyCNN

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