Poll: Most Say Government Spends 'Too Little' On Social Security And Health

Joe Biden

Prseident Joe Biden

A new Associated Press/NORC poll found that 60 percent of Americans say the government spends too much, with 16 percent saying too little, and 22 percent saying spending levels are about right.

It's a dramatic increase from pre-pandemic polling in February 2020, when those saying the government spends too much was roughly equal to those saying too little, 37 percent -- 38 percent. Several months into the pandemic in May 2020, the top lines were wildly different, with those saying the government spends too little easily outpacing the too-much crowd, 42 percent -- 25 percent. Nothing like a pandemic to focus taxpayers on the fact that government funding is actually an essential ingredient of good governance.

In any case, the shift back to respondents believing the government is spending too much is likely partly driven by less dire times, along with partisanship, where Republicans are practically pre-programmed to fault a Democratic president for overspending while giving their president a pass. Without seeing the cross tabs, however, it's difficult to be certain.

That said, the percentage of Americans in the poll who say the government spends "too much" also say the government spends too little on Social Security (62 percent), Medicare (58 percent), health care (63 percent), education (65 percent), and infrastructure (62 percent).

As The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out, those five items combined account for more than half of the federal budget.

The AP also notes big partisan differences in where the government is overspending.

Most Republicans say too much is spent on assistance to big cities (65% vs. just 19% of Democrats), and about half say too much is spent on the environment (51% vs. just 6% of Democrats). Republicans are more likely than Democrats to indicate that the military, law enforcement and border security are underfunded. By comparison, far more Democrats say too little is spent on aid for the poor (80% vs. 38% of Republicans), the environment (73% vs. 21% of Republicans), child care assistance (71% vs. 34% of Republicans), drug rehabilitation (67% vs. 36% of Republicans), and scientific research (54% vs. 24% of Republicans).

Among the 16 items listed, really the only area where a majority agreed the U.S. government was overspending (i.e., partisan agreement) was on "assistance to other countries" at 69 percent. [EDITOR'S NOTE: Foreign aid is a tiny fraction of the federal budget, less than one percent annually.)

As Blake concluded, "People like cutting spending in theory. They do not like it when you cut specific things -- and especially the big stuff that could actually put a dent in the deficit."

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.


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