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