November 18th, 2010
12:30 PM ET
12 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)

    "bad news, "real Americans," time and demographics are on our side. Y'all will be a powerless minority within your lifetimes.'

    By that time, I'll be retired, sitting on a beach, earning 20 percent tax free in the Bahamas.

    November 18, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. angelo

    Why is it that budget cuts always are directed towards domestic programs that are vital to the American citizens. I never hear about cuts to foreign programs. As an example, we borrow money from China yet we give millions in aid to that country for their citizens- who came up with that math! In the Middle East, we give so much aid money that some of those countries can provide a National Health Care and free college, programs which some find in this country intolerable and unacceptable. So why is it okay to support programs in foreign countries with our tax dollars when our tax dollars should first support our programs for our citizens without cuts. Cut foreign welfare, they hate us anyway, why try to buy friendship when there is none.

    November 18, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  3. Louis

    The 50% that want decreased spending are those that pay taxes, the 50% that want increased spending are parasites living off the hard working taxpayers.

    November 18, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  4. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    People are split because they don't want apartheid in this country; the policy involving political, legal and economic separation where the 2% are the riches in this country and the rest, well, you don't have a chance to share in the wealth.

    November 18, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  5. Right Leaning Independent

    The folks that do not want the spending cuts live in delusional land!!! They believe that money can magically appear to pay for all of these programs without raising taxes or making changes to current programs. I am under 50 but god help this country as these under 50 morons start becoming our leaders.....

    November 18, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  6. Tom

    File under: I want to have my cake and eat it too.

    If we keep going in this direction, with ever bigger deficits and growing debt, we'll have neither. China will be happy to sign us on as indentured servants, though.

    November 18, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. ATL Guy

    Might I say that Americans believe in voodoo economics? They want the government to spend more while at the same time cut spending? Just how stupid have we become? Something for nothing indeed.

    November 18, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  8. betterdays

    Instead of deciding on a state-by-state basis (which would involve punishing innocents), why don't we just cut loose the PEOPLE who take more than they give in federal money? "Freeloading hicks" included, I have a feeling that when the demographics are fully explored, my idea would still be branded "racist." I guess that's why some would prefer to go state-by-state. It absolves other huge demographic chunks of responsible behavior, doesn't it...

    November 18, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. terry, va

    49% say give more government hand outs? This country has gone to hell! But, what do you expect when 48% of this country don't pay taxes.

    November 18, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  10. Poser

    People are against the idea of Government spending. When asked about specific cuts, they suddenly realize it affects them directly and it's no longer so attractive. That is exactly why the Tea Bagger and other GOP candidates were so unwilling to identify a single specific cut to spending. Their voters want something for nothing. They were easily fooled into believing the fantasy of spending cuts that won't hurt and tax cuts that magically balance the budget because they want to believe it.
    There are some wasteful projects and those should be cut but as a percentage of the total Government spending it's not going to even come close to balancing the budget. People need to be more realistic (do the math) about what it's going to take to get the budget under control. Defense, social security, medicare, medicaide, and interest on the debt make up close to 80% of the budget. Unless we're willing to make drastic cuts to those things, we are going to need to raise taxes. It's just the sad truth.

    November 18, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  11. mike4ever

    While some of the programs need to be trim, but taking a another look at what is included that can be elimanted. Raising the age of ss is not a very good option because they will only prevent less young adults from being able to enter the work force. Jobs will less likely hire a young person with no experience but keep the older one because f the experience. I'm not saying that older ones who desire to work should be able to but not something they have to do.

    Medicare and mediciade do need to be improve a lot better than what it is. I don't know if people understand when the majority of people who are on ss or disablilty they are on a fixed income and it is not as high as some people have idea that it is. Their are elderly and disability people who income is less than 800 a month and when you take into account that they have to pay for part b of their medicare they are not getting nothing free. Their cost living get frozen but their part b of medicare get increase, each state has a different amount that has to be paid by these indidual. Va is 116 a month. don't sound like much right, but if an individual only get less than 800 amount then it seems like a lot. The only way they can make it for the state to pay that for them. Don't think that is a big thing because you probably thinking well they get food stamp, well the average amount of food stamp is 16 a month. Now when these individuals are on a fixed income they have to think about paying rent/mortage,light, heat, if lucky maybe a telephone, they sure can't afford a television when today you almost have to have cable in order to see anything. These are the ones who should be complaining about being robbed by the government but they don't.

    The one thing that I have learned is that politicians will only tell half truth and never the whole truth because it sounds better and make news. We don't hear about the family who have loss their life savings because of a serious illness has wiped out their income. Or those who do not seek medical treatment because of no insurance and do not want to be branded as lazy and looking for a hand out. Either they tried to doctor on themself or just keep going until it is too late to be helped. Nor are we told about those who have maybe went to the doctor for a sore throat being denied insurance because that now is considered as preexisting condition.

    Or those indiduals who have worked enough credits to draw unemployment from being laid off through no fault of their own being branded as lazy an looking for a hand out, never mind the fact that in order to draw unemployment you have to have enough in the system to be able to draw and you cannot have quit your job or been fired. You do have certain qualification you have to meet and you pay taxes on that money also. Granted some people may get a lot but most people get less than 300 a month and depending on what you have that is still not a lot of money and you do have to make some changing.

    But if you have never ever been in any of these position then you do not know what it is like and have no idea how these people feel. I just pray that you never have to walk in the shoes of the people who you are caling looking for a hand out and become one your self.

    November 18, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  12. Ancient Texan

    Matches pretty closely the Percentage that pay taxes and those that don't and have their hand out. The half that works and pays really can't afford the luxury of carrying the deadbeats any farther.

    November 18, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
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