Bruce Bartlett points out that Americans want a balanced budget, so long as it does not require cutting entitlement programs or raising taxes.
If that sounds, well absurd, it reflects the lack of willingness of voters/taxpayers to engage in any shared sacrifice. This does not bode well for the future of fiscal prudence.
Consider these recent polling results:
An April 6 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 61% of people favor a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, down from 71% in 1995. Support falls to 27% when people are told that this would require a 20% cut in entitlement programs.
An April 4 YouGov poll found that an overwhelming majority of people favor large budget cuts. However, majorities also favor increased spending for education and medical research, and a strong plurality favor increased spending on clean energy technology.
An April 1 CNN/Opinion Research poll examined peoples’ knowledge of how the federal government spends its money. It finds that most really have no idea what percentage of the budget goes to various programs.
A March 31 Pew poll asked people which among these programs the federal government spent the most on: Medicare, education, scientific research, or interest on the debt. Only 29% of people correctly said Medicare, 7% said education, 7% said scientific research, and 36% said interest.
On March 9, the Harris poll found strong opposition to cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits to deal with the budgetary problems of those programs. People are also opposed to raising taxes to fund them.
On March 2, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found strong opposition to cutting spending for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, K-12 education, heating assistance for the poor, college student loans, Head Start, and unemployment insurance. There was majority support only for cutting nuclear power subsidies, aid to state and local governments, the EPA budget, and spending on transportation and infrastructure projects. The poll also found that 81% of people would support a surtax on millionaires to help reduce the budget deficit, and 68% would support eliminating the Bush tax cuts for those earning more than $250,000.
On March 1, the Tarrance Group issued a poll which found that 63% of voters incorrectly believe that the federal government spends more on national defense and foreign aid than it does on Medicare and Social Security. Also, three-fifths of voters believe that the budget can be fixed just by eliminating waste, fraud and abuse.
Bruce has posted a full run of polls, and their surprising conclusions, at The Fiscal Times.
Recent Polls on Taxes and Spending
Fiscal Times, April 15, 2011