Americans want defense cuts, but differ on what to scale back

A vast majority of Americans from both sides of the political aisle think significant reductions in defense spending are in order, according to a data from a new survey released July 16.

In districts represented by Republicans, 74 percent of those polled favored cutting defense, while in Democrat-run districts 80 percent were in favor of significant reductions in the military’s budget, according to the survey.  Red-district respondents called for cutting the Defense Department budget by 15 percent, while those in Democrat-controlled districts wanted 22-percent reductions – and in both cases that was true even in areas benefiting from military employers.

“The idea that Americans would want to keep total defense spending up so as to preserve local jobs is not supported by the data,” said Steven Kull, director of the Program for Public Consultation. PPC conducted the study in coordination with the Stimson Center and the Center for Public Integrity.

There were some partisan differences: Those responding from blue districts wanted bigger cuts to missile defense and naval force, while Americans in red districts called for more cuts to military health care.

In taking the survey, respondents received information about the defense budget and were given the opportunity to read multiple pro and con arguments about the military budget like those circulating on Capitol Hill, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

The results of the survey come as lawmakers and other Washington insiders are convening a number of hearings and meetings to discuss the potential fallout of sequestration.

If enacted in January, sequestration would mandate across-the-board cuts in government spending, including some $500 billion from DOD’s budget over the next 10 years. High-level DOD officials, including Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, have repeatedly blasted sequestration as a doomsday scenario that would devastate the military and jeopardize national security.

At 15 percent and 22 percent, the cuts called for by Americans in the survey exceed those that would come as a result of sequestration.

It remains to be seen if those constituent wishes will be reflected in the next defense budget, which has yet to be passed and could end up not passing until next year. While Senate leaders have said their version of the budget would be similar to that proposed by President Obama, Republicans have said they would add more to the budget, CPI noted.

About the Author

Amber Corrin is a staff writer covering military networks for Defense Systems.

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