US Foreign Policy
Commentary

What Kind of Defense Budget Would the American Public Make?

in Program

With the United States facing large budget deficits, a major
debate is underway in Washington, DC, over whether defense spending will be
subject to cuts.

Unless
Congress succeeds in agreeing on a new budget, current law calls for the
‘sequestration’ provision to kick in, which would cut defense spending 10
percent. Many voices on both sides of the aisle have expressed substantial
concern over that prospect.

But how does the American public feel about the potential of
cutting defense to mitigate the deficit? If a representative sample of
Americans were at the table when decisions were being made, what would they
say?

A new study conducted by the Program for Public Consultation (PPC)
in collaboration with the Stimson Center and the Center for Public Integrity shows
that the American public favors deeper defense cuts. A representative sample of
Americans were shown the size of the defense budget from different perspectives
and presented with arguments that experts make for and against cutting it. 

Other polls on defense spending have mostly asked whether
respondents favor or oppose defense cuts, and generally found smaller numbers
favoring reductions.  Steven Kull,
director of PPC, comments, “This suggests that Americans generally
underestimate the size of the defense budget, and that when they receive neutral
information about its size they are more likely to cut it to reduce the
deficit.”

Majorities said that defense spending was more than they expected
when it was presented in comparison to other items in the discretionary budget
(65 percent), to historical defense spending levels in constant dollars (60
percent), and to the defense spending of potential enemies and allies (56 percent). 

Additional findings:

  • Nuclear weapons received a 27 percent average cut
  • Ground force capabilities were slashed $36.2 billion
  • Eight in 10 respondents favored cutting the Obama administrations
    proposed budget of $88 billion on war spending in Afghanistan for 2013.
    (Average cut: 40 percent)
  • Six in 10 respondents favored reducing healthcare costs by having
    military families and retirees increase their co-pay for drug prescriptions

To
read the full study, click here.


How the Study
Was Conducted

The
study was fielded April 12 to 18 with a sample of 665 American adults (margin
of error plus or minus 3.8 percent, accounting for a design effect, plus or
minus 4.8 percent). It was conducted using the web-enabled KnowledgePanel®, a
probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population.
Initially, participants are chosen scientifically by a random selection of
telephone numbers and residential addresses.

Photo credit: iStock

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