Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
At first blush, the American voter would appear to suffer from cognitive dissonance. They will say that they believe in a broad concept, such as reducing the federal deficit, but when you ask them about specific programs, Americans will say that they support more spending on such programs.
This is largely the result of partisan polling. Most polls are "narrative" polls, designed to give the chattering class fodder to use in pushing their political agenda. Depending upon how you frame a question, you can always produce the desired result. Broad concept questions work best for this.
That's why there's a widely-held assumption in Republican politics that Americans favor spending cuts to reduce the federal deficit. The media villagers also assert this as "conventional wisdom," parroting what they hear from the mighty Wurlitzer of the right-wing noise machine. Only it's not true.
Steve Benen reports The enduring unpopularity of spending cuts:
Suzy Khimm flagged an interesting report from the Pew Research Center that found a strong majority of Americans consider deficit reduction "a top priority," but most of the public rejects the GOP solution -- massive spending cuts -- as the way to go.
[Polling suggests the public supports higher taxes on the wealthy.]
As Pew Research Center president Andrew Kohut noted, more Americans actually support increasing spending on key domestic priorities.
The results look like a sharp repudiation of everything Republicans believe in the 21st century -- Americans want more money for education, health care, aid to the poor, Social Security, law enforcement, and infrastructure, while the GOP wants the exact opposite.
The only spending that's really unpopular is foreign aid, which is a perennial trend, and which represents a tiny fraction of the federal budget. As Travis Waldron explained, "Of course, cutting aid to the world's needy would do virtually nothing to reduce the deficit. Though Americans think it represents anywhere from 10 percent to one-third of the federal budget, in reality, it makes up less than one percent of federal spending."
In terms of the larger fiscal debate, it obviously matters that the American mainstream supports deficit reduction in theory, but is not at all comfortable with cuts to cherished domestic priorities.
But in terms of the political considerations, Republicans are gambling that American voters are so fearful of the debt and deficit, they're prepared to endorse sharp reductions in everything from education to health care to entitlements. The evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.