Conservatives sometimes assert and often imply that Americans want to cut government spending on social assistance and other programs. This is a myth.
In fact, when it comes to the types of programs that get most of the attention in our national debate, almost nobody supports spending reductions and, in many cases, there is strong support for increases.
Take a look at the figure below, which presents General Social Survey data for 2010. Each bar presents the distribution of responses to questions of whether the U.S. spends too much (red), about the right amount (yellow) or too little (green) on several different types of programs and public resources.
As a whole, the types of programs in this graph represent a very large share of total spending at all levels of government. In every single case, 80-95 percent of respondents feel that spending is either “too low” or “about right.” And there is at least fairly strong support for increasing spending on assistance to the poor (68 percent), education (72 percent) and health care (60 percent).
The vast majority of Americans are opposed to cutting programs, and any assertion to the contrary is unsupported political rhetoric.
There is, however, one problem, and it’s clear in the graph below, which presents answers to the question of whether respondents’ federal income taxes are too high, too low or about right.
Americans don’t want to pay more, at least not in federal income tax (see here). Only the tiniest minority of Americans feel their taxes are too low, while about half actually think they should be paying less.
In other words, most Americans think the country should be spending more, but they themselves don’t want to pay for it.
- Matt Di Carlo