Why Republicans have embraced the sequester — in one chart

February 22, 2013

The American people want spending cuts, just not those spending cuts.

For a while, we've been talking on this blog about how polls show American people love the idea of reforming entitlements like Medicare and Social Security -- until, that is, they realize specifically what those changes will be.


Well, when it comes to spending cuts, we've got much the same situation. While Americans are pretty united in their call for Washington to cut out the fat, there is considerably less unanimity about what, exactly, constitutes fat.

According to a new poll from the Pew Research Center, the only area where even close to half of Americans want to see spending cuts is in "aid to the world's needy." And only two other areas -- the State Department and unemployment aid -- have more people calling for spending cuts than spending increases.

In total, of the 19 areas Pew asked people about cutting, Americans favored increasing spending over decreasing spending in 16 of them. And more than twice as many people want to up Medicare funding as want to cut it (it's four-to-one for Social Security).

This is the great riddle of American politics these days, and it's a big reason politicians balk at cutting much of anything.

It's also a big reason Republicans have embraced the sequester. They know putting together a sizable package of cuts that will be amenable to the American people will be very difficult -- there's always something to hate, no matter who you are -- so conservatives figure you might as well take the spending cuts that you've got and run with it.

And what's No. 4 on the list of things that are most acceptable to cut? Military defense, which just happens to be about half of the sequester cuts.

So if there's a package of spending cuts that Americans will embrace (or at least not totally despise), the sequester might be it.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | February 22, 2013