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48% Think Major Cuts in Defense Spending Won’t Put America At Risk

Nearly one-half of Americans now think the United States can make major cuts in defense spending without putting the country in danger. They believe even more strongly that there's no risk in cutting way back on what America spends to defend other countries.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 48% of Adults feel it is possible to significantly reduce military spending without putting the American people at risk. Thirty-seven percent (37%) disagree and do not believe major defense cuts come without risk. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.) 

Seventy-nine percent (79%) say the United States spends too much on defending other countries. Only four percent (4%) think America doesn't spend enough protecting its friends. Thirteen percent (13%) feel these defense expenditures are about right.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans believe it is possible to significantly reduce the amount the United States spends defending other countries without putting the American people at risk. Just 15% believe this is not possible without putting the country in harm's way. Seventeen percent (17%) are undecided.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Democrats and 54% of adults not affiliated with either major party feel it is possible to make major spending cuts in defense spending without weakening national security. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Republicans feel otherwise. But there's little partisan disagreement that significant cutbacks in what America spends to defend other countries would not put the country at greater risk.

These findings take on added significance as Congress and the president debate ways to make significant long-term cuts in federal spending. Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters now recognize that most federal spending goes to only three areas - Social Security, Medicare and national defense.

Seventy-two percent (72%) of adults correctly recognize that the United States has spent more than $100 billion annually fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past few years. Only three percent (3%) think that's not true, while another 25% are not sure.

Voter optimism about U.S. involvement in Afghanistan has slipped back to levels measured before the killing of Osama bin Laden. Most voters want all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within a year.

Voters strongly question whether all U.S. troops will be out of Iraq by the end of the year as President Obama has promised, but a plurality feels we should leave some troops there if the Iraqi government asks us to.

Most Americans (62%) also realize that the United States has more than 250,000 troops deployed in more than 100 foreign countries not counting Iraq and Afghanistan. Nine percent (9%) think that isn't true. Twenty-nine percent (29%) are not sure.

The majority (51%) of men think it's possible to significantly cut military spending overall without putting Americans at risk, a view shared by just 45% of women. But the two generally agree that there's no increased risk to America in cutting back on defense spending to help other countries.

Republicans and unaffiliated adults believe even more strongly than Democrats that the United States spends too much on defending other countries.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters know that the United States spends about six times as much on national defense as any other nation in the world.

The United States has defense treaties with more than 50 nations, but Rasmussen Reports is finding that most Americans aren't willing to go to bat militarily for the majority of them.

Only 49% of voters still see a need for the United States to belong to NATO, a Cold War creation.  Just as many (49%) think America should remove its troops from Western Europe and let the Europeans defend themselves. Forty-eight percent (48%) support withdrawing all troops from Japan, but 60% believe troops should remain in South Korea. 

Voters remain skeptical about U.S. military involvement in Libya, with a plurality still opposed to further military action in the north African country.

"Being the world's policeman" is a phrase often used to suggest America is the nation chiefly responsible for peace and the establishment of democracy in the rest of the world. But just 11% of voters think that should be America's role. Seventy-five percent (75%) agree with the late President Reagan that "the United States should not commit its forces to military action overseas unless the cause is vital to our national interest."

Voters overwhelmingly continue to rate the performance of the U.S. military as good or excellent.

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 national survey of 1,000 Adults was conducted on July 15-16, 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 by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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©2011 Rasmussen Reports, LLC

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