"How the American Public Would Deal with the Budget Deficit"

by Steven Kull, Clay Ramsey, Evan Lewis, and Stefan Subias

A COPA/Program for Public Consultation Poll dated February 2011

What would happen if Americans were to actually sit down and be presented a budget and given the opportunity to make choices and tradeoffs in a single framework?

To answer this question, the Center on Policy Attitudes presented a representative sample of Americans with 31 of the major areas of the discretionary federal budget, as projected for the year 2015. Participants were given a chance to increase or decrease each item as they saw fit.

Seventy-six percent reduced spending overall, with the average respondent making net cuts of $145.7 billion. By far the largest cuts were to defense spending (which constituted the majority of all cuts), followed by intelligence, military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the federal highway system—all of which were cut by at least half of respondents. Some items were increased: especially job training, aid to higher education, and energy conservation and renewables.