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Behind the Numbers
Posted at 02:39 PM ET, 01/07/2011

Public's take on cutting defense

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates on Thursday announced proposals to cut $78 billion in the Pentagon's spending over the next five years. That's unusual news for a department that's seen rapidly increasing budgets for the past decade, and it may meet with public resistance.

Slightly more people oppose cuts to defense spending than support them, 52 to 44 percent. About a third of all Americans are strongly opposed to reductions while two in 10 strongly support them.

There is no consensus for cutting any one program in efforts to reduce the federal budget deficit. The December Washington Post-ABC News poll tested nine proposals for cutting the federal deficit and did not find majority support for any one item.

At 44 percent support, defense cuts were about the middle of the pack, with big partisan differences. Democrats were most apt to support such cuts at 54 percent. Defense was the number one target for Democrats for reducing the deficit (tied with support for reductions to the capital gains tax).

Defense cuts were much less popular among Republicans -- only 30 percent supported them and 69 percent were opposed. The 24-point partisan gap on support is about as large as it is for any item we tested. Independents roughly split the difference; 43 percent support such decreases and 50 percent are opposed.

Perceptions of the war in Afghanistan may play a role in setting budget priorities. Opposition to defense cuts spikes to 61 percent among those who say the war in Afghanistan has been worth fighting.

Q: I'm going to name some proposals that have been made to try to reduce the federal budget deficit. For each, please tell me if that's something you support strongly, support somewhat, oppose somewhat or oppose strongly.

                                  ---- % Support ---
                                  Total Dem  Rep Ind
Eliminating the mortgage interest 
 tax deduction for high income      49   49  40  57
Reducing SS benefits for wealthy    49   48  45  52
Increasing age for full SS benefits 48   46  49  50
Reducing defense spending           44   54  30  43
Reducing federal aid to agriculture 41   42  41  41 
Raising taxes on capital gains      43   54  28  44 
Reducing yearly increase in SS      36   37  28  40
Eliminating child tax deduction
 for parents                        34   35  29  38
Increasing gas tax by 15 cents      21   24  16  23

By  |  02:39 PM ET, 01/07/2011

Categories:  Post Polls, Post Polls | Tags:  Post-ABC, Washington Post-ABC News, defense, deficit, economy, polls

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