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48% See Need to Change Defense, Social Security, Medicare To Make Serious, Long-Term Spending Cuts


Just under half of voters understand that making major cuts in government spending over the long haul will require substantial changes in three of the most politically sensitive areas of the federal budget.

Forty-eight percent (48%) of Likely U.S. Voters recognize that it is necessary to make major changes in defense, Social Security, and Medicare to make truly significant, long-term cuts in government spending, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Thirty-seven percent (37%) don't believe changes of this kind are necessary. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

Most Republicans (54%) and voters not affiliated with either major political party (51%) understand that major changes in defense, Social Security and Medicare will be needed to guarantee significant, long-term spending cuts. A plurality of Democrats (46%) disagree and don't think such changes will be required.

The Political Class is closely divided on the question, while 51% of Mainstream voters see major changes in the three politically touchy areas as necessary to ensure serious, long-term spending cuts.

As recently as November, voters were evenly divided when asked if the majority of federal spending goes to just national defense, Social Security and Medicare. Forty-one percent (41%) recognized the truth of this statement, but 39% disagreed with it and 20% were undecided.

The majority of voters continue to say as they have in surveys for years that cutting taxes and reducing government spending are best for the economy. Most voters also want a government that offers fewer services and lower taxes.

But 68% of voters feel any proposed changes to Medicare and Social Security should be approved by a vote of the American people.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of male voters recognize that to make truly significant, long-term spending cuts, it will be necessary to make major changes in defense, Social Security and Medicare. Just 43% of female voters agree.

Voters under the age of 40 recognize much more strongly than their elders the need to tackle these three areas to achieve major federal budget cuts. Those who earn over $60,000 a year are much more likely to agree than those who earn less.

Indicative of voter support for spending cuts is the finding late last month that 57% felt deeper budget cuts were more important than avoiding a partial government shutdown. But 53% also recognized that the proposed deeper Republican cuts, opposed by most Democrats, would have little impact on overall levels of spending and deficits.

Voters expressed similar feelings about the three-year freeze on government discretionary spending that President Obama proposed in his State of the Union speech last year. While most approved of the freeze, 81% said it would have no impact on the nation's historic-level budget deficits.

The skepticism may be rooted in the fact that voters routinely vote for politicians who promise to cut taxes and spending, but 60% realize that government spending in America has gone up every single year since 1954.

Voters are fairly evenly divided as to whether the federal government spends too much or too little on national defense, but most also appear to dramatically underestimate how much is actually spent.

Additional information from this survey and a full demographic breakdown are available to Platinum Members only.

Rasmussen Reports is an electronic media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion polling information.  We poll on a variety of topics in the fields of politics, business and lifestyle, updating our site's content on a news cycle throughout the day, everyday.

Rasmussen Reports Platinum Members get an all-access pass to polling news, analysis and insight not available to the general public.

Scott Rasmussen , president of Rasmussen Reports, has been an independent pollster for more than a decade. To learn more about our methodology, click here.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 7-8, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted byPulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC
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