“It upsets me about Social Security, because I paid into it, we all did, and they wasted our money,” said Susan Turner, 64, a retired Democratic Air Force employee living in Titusville, Fla., in a follow up interview. “But I do think we need to take a look at it — we need to take a look at Medicare too.”
There is little public appetite for cuts to federal education, food stamps and transportation programs, with majorities saying such spending shouldn’t be touched. Americans do support reductions in environmental and defense programs and grants for the arts and scientific research.
Both Obama and congressional Republicans draw weak marks on accomplishing their stated objectives.
Fifty-three percent of respondents say Republicans haven’t made much of a difference in achieving their goal of reducing government spending, with another 34 percent saying they’ve allowed spending to increase. Fifty-one percent say Obama and congressional Democrats haven’t had much success in protecting entitlements including Social Security and Medicare from spending cuts, compared with 32 percent who say they’ve done a good job.
While the results give the White House a public opinion edge on some elements of the budget debate, Republicans win support in the clashes over raising the debt ceiling.
Seventy-one percent of respondents say it’s right to require spending cuts when the debt limit is raised — a routine demand of Republicans over the last two years — while just 21 percent say the full faith and credit of the U.S. should be “protected at any cost.”
At the same time, the size and trajectory of the U.S. deficit is poorly understood by most Americans, with 62 percent saying it’s getting bigger, 28 percent saying it’s staying about the same this year, and just 6 percent saying it’s shrinking. The Congressional Budget Office reported Feb. 6 that the federal budget deficit is getting smaller, falling to $845 billion this year — the first time in five years that the gap between taxes and spending will be less than $1 trillion.