November 18th, 2010
12:30 PM ET
4 years ago

CNN Poll: Americans split on cutting government spending

Washington (CNN) - A new national poll suggests that cuts in federal spending are likely to be hard to sell to the American public, even though the desire for less spending on domestic programs is significantly higher than it was during the Reagan and Clinton years.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday, the number of Americans who want more government spending on domestic programs equals the number who want the government to spend less. Overall, 49 percent say the federal government should spend more money for domestic programs; that figure is up 17 percentage points since 1994. Another 49 percent saying less should be spent on domestic programs.

See the full results after the jump.

Full results (pdf)

"Aside from party identification, the biggest demographic differences on this question were between younger and older Americans," said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "A majority of Americans under 50 want more spending on domestic programs. But 57 percent of Americans older than 50 think the government should spend less on these programs."

For most of the government programs tested in the poll, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, college loans, and aid to farmers and unemployed workers, Americans say that avoiding significant spending cuts is more important than reducing the deficit.

"Many of the budget cuts proposed last week by Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, who are heading up a presidential commission on deficit reduction, appear to be highly unpopular, including changes to Social Security and the federal tax code," adds Holland. "The public opposition to some of the proposals made by Simpson and Bowles illustrates what a hard sell spending cuts will be."

According to the poll, more than seven in ten oppose eliminating the deductions taxpayers can take for mortgage payments and young children; two-thirds oppose an increase in the federal gasoline tax. Two-thirds also oppose an increase in the retirement age for Social Security and three-quarters don't like the proposal to reduce the yearly increase in Social Security benefits. Only about one in three feel that reducing the deficit is a higher priority than keeping the current levels on farm aid and college loans, and only one in five think that deficit reduction is more important than keeping the current levels of spending on Medicare and Social Security.

But the survey indicates that some federal programs are not popular: 61 percent say that deficit reduction is more important than funding for the arts, and 68 percent say reducing the deficit is more important than avoiding cuts in pay and benefits for federal workers.

The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted November 11-14, with 1,014 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

Check out CNN's new Polling Center, which provides the most comprehensive polling data of any news organization in the political landscape.

–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.


Filed under: CNN poll • Deficit • Medicaid • Medicare • Polls • Social Security • Taxes
soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Nancy Pelosi, the wicked witch of the west, the DemocRAT gift that just keeps on giving

    And this is a big surprise when half of the country pays taxes and the other half pays nothing and is most likely collecting government assistance paid by the half stuck paying taxes????

    But the bottom line is that it doesn't matter if people want more! They are already getting more than we can afford as we are borrowing a third of what we spend. The gravy traij has come to the end of the tracks people! Time to GET REAL and face fiscal reality.

    November 18, 2010 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    You can get 10 different answers to the same question if asked in 10 different ways.
    Polls are ridiculous

    November 18, 2010 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  3. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Hardly surprising. Americans are about evenly split on everything. There are those who cling to a past that never existed and those who want to join the rest of the world in the 21st century. Guess which half is growing and which half is shrinking. Bad news, "real Americans," time and demographics are on our side. Y'all will be a powerless minority within your lifetimes. Have a nice day!

    November 18, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  4. jules sand-perkins

    We are split: that's the problem.
    The split is between those who will find a way to support themselves no matter what, and between those who want the first group to support them.

    November 18, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  5. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    Nancy Pelosi, the wicked witch of the west, the DemocRAT gift that just keeps on giving
    "And this is a big surprise when half of the country pays taxes and the other half pays nothing and is most likely collecting government assistance paid by the half stuck paying taxes????
    But the bottom line is that it doesn't matter if people want more! They are already getting more than we can afford as we are borrowing a third of what we spend. The gravy traij has come to the end of the tracks people! Time to GET REAL and face fiscal reality."

    I agree, we need to cut loose the red states which take more than they give in federal money. Time for those freeloading hicks to learn to live within their means. Have a nice day!

    November 18, 2010 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  6. TomInRochNY

    Funny, they don't mention that defense spending was a split. Half want it cut while half don't It's one of the more popular cuts overall and will do the most to reduce the deficit.

    November 18, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  7. diridi

    hold your head so hard...o.k, they want to cut social security, GOP wants to cut Medicare, China is rising....GOP will ship all jobs to China, or India....just hold your head...bunch of idiotic political spectrum...bunch of old idiotic conservative junk....

    November 18, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  8. Whatever

    I'm willing to pay a little more in taxes if it means the deficit will decrease!! The tax decrease in April 2009 was nice but I'm willing to give it back. The biggest lie told was that Democrats raised taxes when there was an additional tax cut in 2009. We need to make stuff again and get our economy going. People are all over the place with these polls. One day they want it and next day or month they don't! INSANE!!!!

    November 18, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  9. Enough

    Let's get serious here and quit talking about cutting social security which is paid for by tax payers as well as employers and start talking about cutting the pork in the budget. Start with all the tax payer provided perks the politicians give themselves, pensions for life, great health benefits, private jets. End all entitlements to people in this country illegally. Cut the pork spending and there is plenty. We should no longer fund corrupt organizations like Acorn and Public radio. If politicians spent our money responsibly we wouldn't need to raise taxes...........period!

    November 18, 2010 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Nancy Pelosi, the wicked witch of the west, the DemocRAT gift that just keeps on giving

    Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...
    I agree, we need to cut loose the red states which take more than they give in federal money. Time for those freeloading hicks to learn to live within their means. Have a nice day!
    ===============================================================================================

    A clear illustration of the delusional leftists on this board and in the country. The Blue states ARE BANKRUPT! The red states are fiscally sound. You welfare cases are living off of the generosity of the independent hard working country folk. Time to get off your back side and start earning your keep deadbeats! Who you gonna suck dry when all "the rich" (aka people who work for aliving!) are gone? Have nice day because you're gravy train has come to the end of its track!

    November 18, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  11. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert, but...

    jules sand-perkins
    "We are split: that's the problem.
    The split is between those who will find a way to support themselves no matter what, and between those who want the first group to support them."
    November 18, 2010 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |

    Yeah, those darn investment bankers and hedge fund managers had better start producing something of value instead of shuffling imaginary money around. A poor man may not create jobs (except that he does by spending) but a rich man never fixed my car. Have a nice day!

    November 18, 2010 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  12. DanteX

    Right.

    Cable News Network why not try doing YOUR JOB. You -along with the rest of other "mainstream media" are the reson why the likes of Sharron Angle and Carly Fiorina and Joe Miller and Christine O'Donnell and Carl Paladino and Sarah Palin and the rest of that "APOCALYPSE OF IDIOTS" that have taken-over the United States House of Representatives and have had a platform from which to spread their fear and hate and lies.

    IF the Conservatives and the Republican Party -who are nothing but a bunch FEAR-MONGERS and LIARS and RACISTS that are only concerned about the interests of Corporations that send AMERICAN JOBS OVERSEAS to places like China and India and Indonesia and Mexico and their own political fortunes- were REALLY serious about "cutting spending" THEN they would cut the this Nation's BLOATED Department of Defense Budget by roughly 50% and have A REAL PLAN for replacing this Nation's aging and failing infrastructure instead of trying to sabotage and undermine the Presidency of Barack Obama as they have been doing since the time BEFORE he was even the Democratic nominee.

    November 18, 2010 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  13. Dave, Central Illinois

    Ooh, big news here CNN. Those of us who work and pay taxes want the cuts. I think that the people who collect welfare and are physically able should be forced to do labor in order to earn their check. FDR did it and we are still benefitting from the good work of the CCC.

    November 18, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  14. King

    Lesson it will be caotiv to cut spending at this point America needs to get back on it's foot first. Spending is the only thing keeping America afloat at the moment. Small business are providing 70 percent of the jobs right now we can't expect to cut their customers and expect them to hire more people. This is the holidays for crying out loud it's a time for spending, creat demand and hiring folks. The middle class and poor are like honey bees they sling money around the economy like honey bees polinate flowers.

    November 18, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  15. CNNTom

    Of course people don't want spending cuts - they want something for nothing. Let them keep spending until the United States goes belly up. Then we'll what type of life they'll be living because there won't be anymore money for their precious programs? What will they do then?

    November 18, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  16. Ram

    You can never ever spend your way to prosperity; But with saving, the probability of finding a path to prosperity is greatly enhanced. Perpetual consumerism, Alcohol addiction and substance abuse are birds of a feather.

    November 18, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  17. beowulf2

    Spending should be cut on EVERYTHING across the board by a certain percentage. EVERYONE should feel the pain as one nation.

    November 18, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  18. Tim

    the 49% who want more government spending had to interupt their government provided dinner to answer their government subsidized phone to answer the poll.

    November 18, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. T'sah from Virginia

    If you read paragraph 6 above – starting off with "According to the poll, more than..." you need to ask yourself – What DOES America want???? According to this, they want their CAKE and eat it TOO!!

    This is exactly why polls do not mean anything. Half of the people do not even know what's in the "Budget Cut Proposal". Many Americans don't even know what an EARMARK is?

    Many Americans watch the 'channel of their choice' and they are diehards to the belief of what they hear. So if you have a Network Host out there knowingly telling LIES and the listeners believe it; then they see a POLL that reinforces that belief, the results are NULL and VOID and for the MOMENT… It's a Never-ending Story!!

    President Obama will keep Moving America Forward in a positive way!!

    November 18, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  20. Engineer in Raleigh

    "But 57 percent of Americans older than 50 think the government should spend less on these programs."

    In other words, the people collect Medicare and Social Security are more likely to lecture the rest of us on "Gubberment Spending". Here's an idea – if you don't like the welfare state, stop feeding at the trough... Because I'd rather see a bunch of homeless geriatrics eating cat food than listen to one more government assisted tea partier whine about "taxes".

    November 18, 2010 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  21. Jim from Va

    The remaking of President Obama image is already underway by the media.As he positions himself for 2012 he will be turned to a fiscaly responsible person intent on cutting into the massive debt that he's helped create.

    November 18, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  22. Mark

    Love the comments. To the GOP, cut spending, cut taxes on the rich, do what you PROMISED to do. Please shut down the government and keep John and Eric in front of the cameras as much as possible. What are you doing with McConnell? You need to keep him in line. For a while he was bucking the Tea Party. PLEASE, PLEASE do what you promised, we expect you to keep your promises!

    November 18, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  23. Tim, San Diego CA

    Basically all this poll indicates is that Americans are unwilling to make personal sacrifices. If the question about raising taxes on the rich would have been asked I'm sure that the majority would have supported it because, for most people, it represents a sacrifice made by someone else. Americans have lost the pioneer spirit that made this country great and have become a bunch of helpless whiners. I primarily blame the liberals, who like drug dealers, prey on people's dependence.

    November 18, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  24. SayWhat

    Where were these people when it was the proper time to have their say – on election day. Now you can sit back and watch the GOP try to cut government programs, increase defense spending and cut taxes for the rich – and plunge our country back into economic recession.

    November 18, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. NVa Native

    And the Repubs keep pushing (with lame-stream media's help) that they have some lame mandate because of all the blue dog Democrates who lost in red districts. The mandate is that of the Repubs who won only a third of the the tea-tards who were on the ballot won. And their mindless minions keep chanting all the nonsense about the lie that only 50% of Americans pay taxes. Dumb as rocks. Unless they're talking about the 50% of huge corporations that don't pay taxes like – Exxon Mobil, the Koche Bros., Bechtel, etc.?

    November 18, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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