US Foreign Policy

The Defense Budget Americans Would Make

*   Steven Kull, Director of the Program for Public Consultation*
*   Matthew Leatherman, Analyst, Stimson’s Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense project
*   R. Jeffrey Smith, Managing Editor for National Security, Center for Public Integrity
What would average Americans do if they were informed about the level of US defense spending and had a chance to weigh the arguments that experts make about how much it should be? Would they boost overall funding, or cut it? Would they spend more on air power or sea power? How much would they say the US should spend on nuclear arms? On major ground forces? On special forces? Do those in red or blue congressional districts and those living near major defense companies respond differently?
Most polls simply ask whether defense spending should be cut or not. But three organizations -­ the Program for Public Consultation (PPC), Stimson, and the Center for Public Integrity ­- collaborated on a more useful survey. They provided a representative sample of the American public with neutral information about how funds are currently being spent and exposed them to the various arguments made by advocates in the contemporary debate on what defense spending should be, overall and for the different areas of the budget. The respondents then made up their own defense budget.
A presentation hosted by the Stimson Center shed new light on the linkages ­and gaps ­ between decisions being made in Washington and what average Americans want. The results also made clear which arguments favoring or opposing current defense spending have the most resonance with members of the public.

Released for the first time were data showing how views vary between Red and Blue districts, districts with high levels of defense spending, and districts with major defense contractors.


For additional information, please call the Program for Public Consultation at 202-232-7500.
*The Program for Public Consultation is a joint program of the Center for Policy Attitudes and the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

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