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New Poll: Public Would Significantly Alter Administration's Budget
March 8, 2005 12:53 PM   Subscribe

A new poll finds that the American public would significantly alter the Bush administration’s recently proposed federal budget. Presented a breakdown of the major areas of the proposed discretionary budget and given the opportunity to redistribute it, respondents made major changes. The most dramatic changes were deep cuts in defense spending, a significant reallocation toward deficit reduction, and increases in spending on education, job training, reducing reliance on oil, and veterans. These changes were favored by both Republicans and Democrats, though the changes were generally greater for Democrats.
What America Gets Right (pdf) via The Gadflyer
posted by y2karl (49 comments total)

 
If Republicans favor those things, they're in the wrong party.
posted by Miko at 1:02 PM on March 8, 2005


Well now, Miko, that should tell you something, shouldn't it?
posted by mkultra at 1:04 PM on March 8, 2005


Miko, wait. Are you saying that a true blue (red?) Republican would never opt for decreased defense spending? That there's no percentage of our budget too high to allocate to the military?
posted by nobody at 1:09 PM on March 8, 2005


Defense spending received the deepest cut, being cut on average 31%—equivalent to $133.8 billion—with 65% of respondents cutting. The second largest area to be cut was the supplemental for Iraq and Afghanistan, which suffered an average cut of $29.6 billion or 35%, with two out of three respondents cutting...

The largest increases were for social spending. Spending on human capital was especially popular including education which was increased $26.8 billion (39%) and job training and employment which was up $19 billion or a remarkable 263%. Medical research was upped on average $15.5 billion (53%). Veterans benefits were raised 40% or $12.5 billion and housing went up 31% or $9.3 billion...

In percentage terms, by far the largest increase was for conserving and developing renewable energy - an extraordinary 1090% or $24 billion—which also had the highest percentage of respondents (70%) favoring an increase. The environment and natural resources received a more modest increase of 32% or $9 billion, with 42% of respondents favoring increases.


Now that's the American way.
posted by y2karl at 1:14 PM on March 8, 2005


It seems to me the "average American" (Of course, none actually exist) seems to think in a focus of about 50 years out and our current President seems to think about 5 years out and that's a little too close to see the big picture changes. (I'm deliberately trying to be generous.)

Even 50 years is too close, but it's a better focus. How are your actions of today going to affect the world when exponentially repeated for 50 years?
posted by Griffins_posse at 1:15 PM on March 8, 2005


No, I'm not saying that; reduced defense spending is certainly consistent with traditional American conservatism. My comment was quickly tossed off, and was more in regards to the positions on education funding, job training, and reduced reliance on oil. Spending increases in those areas are more consistent with Democratic Party platforms.

This does bring to mind, though, something that disturbed me greatly during my canvassing prior to the recent election: I often heard people, when asked about what they believed on specific issues, list positions that were those of the Democratic Party; then assert that they were voting Bush, despite the fact that his positions were opposite their own. Typically, the reason given was rather nebulous and emotionally based ('He just seems like someone I can trust/like a regular guy/don't want to change horses in midstream'). I grew to suspect that Americans actually have very little idea how our own political process works; that if you want to advance your positions on issues you care about, you have to support candidates who will move that agenda forward. Otherwise you'll soon be living someone else's agenda.
posted by Miko at 1:17 PM on March 8, 2005


It's no secret that the average American is for these things. The problem is that this creates little revenue for the people in politics. Nice to see that Congress got scared to raise minimum wage again. I wonder who received the latest payraise: Congress or the American minimum wage earner?
posted by Numenorian at 1:18 PM on March 8, 2005


you have to support candidates who will move that agenda forward. Otherwise you'll soon be living someone else's agenda.

I voted for Badnarik and now I have to live with the Republican's agenda. Do I get a refund or something?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 1:19 PM on March 8, 2005


The GOP ROT-13 decipher:

Criminalize abortion ~~~ cut the Capital Gains tax
Ban Gay Marriage ~~~ cut Social Security benefits
Family Values ~~~ Gilded Patronage
Freedom in the Middle East ~~~ Profit in the Middle East
Mom and Pop ~~~ Corporate Lobbyist

Next election, decipher rings will be airdropped over the middle class.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 1:24 PM on March 8, 2005


Considering the way the American political machine works, most Republican laymen opt for defense cuts largely out of shock at the size of the budget and not having their job security be supported by defense contractors.

Of course, a reliance on allies is completely reckless when it comes to anything short of a direct attack.

What's notable is the 70% interest in renewable energy. The gas cartels aren't subsidized enough to handle this, so they raise prices for their own profit. We see a huge increase at the pump, something most non-wealthy people bristle at with indignation. Some may even think "With all this blood spilled, where's my damn oil?"
posted by Saydur at 1:26 PM on March 8, 2005


Interesting. It's obvious that people are either lying in this poll, or lying at the voting booth. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

"Do you want Osama to be vaporized by a death ray?" would get high marks on a poll too; that it's an impossibility isn't factored into it, thus negating any relevance. Sad as it is for me to say it, the idea that a candidate could win an election on a platform of cutting the defense budget by 5%, let alone 31%, is laughable.

This is the same coattails concept as the Republican polls insisting that Condoleeza Rice will be nominated for President. People have this uncanny subconscious belief that surveys have a "correct" answer and struggle to answer what they think makes them "right."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:31 PM on March 8, 2005


Miko, the problem isn't really that they are in the wrong party. The problem is that their party doesn't exist. Many of Bush's supporters want a country that is socially conservative (against abortion, for privacy) and fiscally progressive (not necessarily higher taxes but a progressive tax code with an emphasis on social issue expenditures).

Their problem is that both of the major parties have, as part of their platform, issues that they are against. They don't like the Democrats' social liberalism but neither do like the Repuplicans' fiscal conservatism. But when given the choice they put social issues ahead of fiscal issues, so they vote Republican.
posted by oddman at 1:35 PM on March 8, 2005


what XQUZ said
posted by matteo at 1:48 PM on March 8, 2005


People have this uncanny subconscious belief that surveys have a "correct" answer and struggle to answer what they think makes them "right."

Indeed... I don't think that this can be said enough, frankly, and not just in relation with these political polls either. People generally have a sense that there is a "noble answer" to a question asked, and they will not hesitate to affirm that noble answer, even as they are putting into practice the opposite of what they are saying.
posted by clevershark at 1:56 PM on March 8, 2005


Kevin Drum pretty much nails it:

People say this kind of stuff to pollsters all the time (and Democrats usually rejoice at the results), but when election day comes around they flatly don't vote based on these priorities. If John Kerry had proposed cutting the defense budget by $150 billion he wouldn't have lost the election by 3 percentage points, he would have lost by 10 or 20.
posted by Freen at 1:56 PM on March 8, 2005


From Kevin Drum's comments:

The key: "1,182 adults were given a spreadsheet that showed current spending."

In other words, when *first presented with the facts*, people turn into liberals.

posted by y2karl at 2:06 PM on March 8, 2005


I'm not really sure that I am qualified (despite an undergraduate degree in economics and a law degree, both from good schools) to make these sort of budgetary decisions. That makes me call into question the value of this whole process.

Sure, it sounds good to reduce military spending, but I have no perspective on what miltary readiness actually costs. Nor do I have a good grasp on what the FEDERAL role in education should be. Etc etc etc.

I'll bet that there's an interesting experiment here --- give some % of respondants a different "starter" budget that isn't the real US budget and see if they still cut spendign the same way. THat would suggest that they just want to cut, no matter what the actual spending is.
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2005


Thanks y2karl, this is an enlightening poll. It seems like the nation wants fiscal conservatism and no recent candidate has made a serious attempt at it. (Aside from 3rd parties, like the one that got my vote.)

BTW, Kerry wouldn't have cut defense spending either, in fact he said he would increase it. So you can't exactly attack Bush for this position if you support Kerry.
posted by knave at 2:07 PM on March 8, 2005


Next election, decipher rings will be airdropped over the middle class.

Maybe Ovaltine will be classified as a vegetable.
posted by AlexReynolds at 2:08 PM on March 8, 2005


It seems to me the "average American" (Of course, none actually exist) seems to think in a focus of about 50 years out and our current President seems to think about 5 years out and that's a little too close to see the big picture changes.

I think it applies to any politician, not just our current president. Anyone in an elected office needs to show results now, or they won't be re-elected.

When was the last president that offered a long-term idea that is still around? LBJ's welfare stuff? FDR's Social Security? Anything in the last 20 years?
posted by mathowie at 2:09 PM on March 8, 2005


Data, the enemy of the ideologue.

Maynard Keynes once said in response to an accusation of inconsistancy: "When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?"
posted by Freen at 2:13 PM on March 8, 2005


Kerry wouldn't have been elected, and for that matter, no one, even The Jesus® himself, could beat a coked up chimp if they even suggested that we reduce military spending by 30%
posted by Freen at 2:18 PM on March 8, 2005


mathowie: Reagan's trickle-down and "deficits are unimportant"
posted by matteo at 2:20 PM on March 8, 2005


Nixon's Clean Air Act was a pretty big, long-term idea, at the time (of course, that was a bit more than 20 years back). Oh wait--now that I look again, the skies have cleared, and that whole embarassing regulatory debauchle never actually happened! It says here in my new history book that only nutty 'liberals' have ever supported economy-stifling environmental regulations. That sounds right. Guess it's true now. Damn hippies, sprinkling all that pixie dust in my eyes to obscure my view of recent history!
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:24 PM on March 8, 2005


Oh wait, no, here it is. Apparently, Nixon actually was a hippie.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 2:35 PM on March 8, 2005


When was the last president that offered a long-term idea that is still around? LBJ's welfare stuff? FDR's Social Security? Anything in the last 20 years?

Clinton signed NAFTA. Not saying that's a good thing. And Al Gore, all jokes aside, really did help with that whole interweb thing.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:53 PM on March 8, 2005


That'll be the 1992 British election: people told pollsters they wanted more money spent on the NHS/schools/etc, and would pay more in taxes for it, then went and voted Tory. I believe there was an editorial in the Times afterwards called 'We are a nation of liars'.

But I think that La Rochefoucauld said it best: 'hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.'
posted by riviera at 2:59 PM on March 8, 2005


Not to piss on the parade at all but that's a damn small sample space (1182 contestants) for a country of 250+million people.
There's not much in the way of further information about just who these random people were - workers? in debt? rural/city? age/sex? And how many declined to participate? Did respondents receive any incentive gifts etc? Also, they state in the .pdf preamble that some of the questions were posed to only part of the sample goup - why and which questions? And I didn't notice - did they actually say how many respondents were dem and how many were rep?
Don't get me wrong, although antipodean I find the data heartening......but as far as 'good science' goes.....this study falls way short IMHO.
They do refer people to a website about methodology but the front door seemed very general and required membership for further details.
But otherwise....I'm all for giving these people veto power over shrub/congress for the budget......nay........why not just extrapolate the data for the next election so everyone can stay home.
posted by peacay at 3:46 PM on March 8, 2005


um, that's a perfectly legit sample size.
posted by Hat Maui at 3:57 PM on March 8, 2005


Not to piss on the parade at all but that's a damn small sample space (1182 contestants) for a country of 250+million people

No, 1182 is fine. God bless Gauss and the central limit theorem: the way the math turns out, the population size is not important except for weensy populations. Usually it's more convenient to assume the "worst case," that the population is infinitely large, since this lets you assume continuity etc.

The way to think about it is this:

Go play with the sample-size calculator that Hat Maui linked to.

Find the sample size you'd want for a 95% CI of 3 points, and a population of 1000. You'll find that it's 516.

Now try it again for a population of 10000: you'll find that it's 964.

Try it again for a million, and you'll find that you need a sample of 1066. Try again for 300,000,000 and you'll need 1067.

Try again with a googol, or just press one and then hold down the zero key for a good long while, and you'll find that it's... 1067. Try it again for ten to the power of (the number of subatomic particles in the universe) and you'll still need 1067.

The reason you might want more (many surveys use 1500-2500) is to make better inferences about sub-populations. If you want a 3 point CI for men, and women, as well as for the whole population, you'll need a random sample of around 2000 to get the ~1000 each.

There's not much in the way of further information about just who these random people were - workers? in debt? rural/city? age/sex?

If they didn't fuck up, and presumably the survey company knows how not to, this stuff gets washed out with the random sampling.

And how many declined to participate?

This is becoming a serious concern for polling and survey research. It didn't look like they applied a correction for it, but you can "correct" the sample by knowing who is more and less likely to agree to be surveyed.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:32 PM on March 8, 2005


Why, whenever there is a poll, someone always chimes in "my that's a small sample size"?

Oh yes, that's right, intelligence is normally distributed as well.
posted by Freen at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2005


Asking random Americans to adjust the budget numbers is one thing and I have no doubt that the results of this poll are generally representative, as Hat Maui point sout the sample size is fine. But ask the same people to adjust the budget by changing spending on specific programs and I doubt you'd get anywhere near the same results, especially if you altered pork-type spending to benefit their area.
posted by billsaysthis at 4:33 PM on March 8, 2005


Thanks Hat, ROU....long time since I did stats.
Freen......is that a contribution or are you just exercising the fingies to ward off arthritis?
posted by peacay at 4:48 PM on March 8, 2005


Um...
Neither, but thanks for asking.
posted by Freen at 4:50 PM on March 8, 2005


I think you all are being a bit rash jumping to the "Americans are ignorant"/"the people polled lied and answered what they thought was right" conclusion. I think oddman got it right. It's too simplistic to look at results like this and say, "They say they believe one thing, but seemingly vote against it! They must be lying or stupid!", because it ignores important issues. For instance, someone could fully support all of the Democratic Party's economic and political ideas, but be strongly anti-abortion. If you truly believe it's murder or the like, social and economic issues will always be trumped. Certain elements of the platforms of both parties can make voters vote against some things they believe in to promote others that they feel more important, and there's nothing stupid about that. It's just setting priorities and making a choice.

Also, thedevildancedlightly makes a good point. I would have no idea what running the military atually costs or needs to cost, and what could safely be cut, nor really exactly how the money in any of these areas will be used. Without great knowledge of the details of the workings of the feder government, people can only really go with what they feel, which could be nonsensical in reality.
posted by Sangermaine at 4:53 PM on March 8, 2005


Here's a factoid that most people have trouble wrapping their minds around: When you include Iraq and Afghanistan into the USA's military budget (which clearly should be included), the United States spends significantly more on it's military than the REST OF THE WORLD combined.

Yes, the USA spends more than all the rest of the military budgets added together.
posted by Justinian at 5:15 PM on March 8, 2005


And also on "its" military. I hate that typo.
posted by Justinian at 5:17 PM on March 8, 2005


I can believe it. I think most Americans are aware that the US spends roughly as much on "defense" as the entire rest of the world combined.

And I suspect most of them consider that a bit excessive.

Especially when you've got people on both sides screaming about deficit problems, social security problems, and other budgetary shortfalls... and all this could easily be solved by assuming that the entire freaking world is not going to come gunning for us all at the same time.
posted by InnocentBystander at 5:21 PM on March 8, 2005


Pshaw. You can't fool me... I saw "Red Dawn"!
posted by Justinian at 5:25 PM on March 8, 2005


Justinian,
Well, that is true, but there are reasons for it. We have significantly more military obligations than any other nation. Afghanistan and Iraq are not the only thing the military is involved in. The troops stationed in Korea and Japan and Germany for instance that act as shields for those countries. Because of the Cold War we ended up protecting other parts of the world, like West Germany. You might argue that some of this is excessive, and it is, but certainly there are legitimate reasons why our military budget would be so large, though with the end of the Cold War many of those reasons seems less important...
posted by Sangermaine at 5:40 PM on March 8, 2005


the USSR had a lot of military obligations as well. then they went bankrupt and took their entire sphere of influence into desperate poverty. makes a person think, no?
posted by n9 at 8:01 PM on March 8, 2005


...that socialist totalitarianism sucks? Da.
posted by techgnollogic at 8:32 PM on March 8, 2005


Military Update: Black Army recruits down 41 percent since 2000

makes a person think, no?

Da.
posted by y2karl at 10:01 PM on March 8, 2005


2003 Charlie Rangel:

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 (UPI) -- Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., a Korean War veteran, has introduced a bill to reinstate the military draft, arguing, "A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the [volunteer] military..."

Indeed, in a little noticed development, the percentage of military personnel who were minorities shot upward during the years from 1995 to 2000, with enlisted ranks rising from 28 percent to 38 percent minority (compared to 30 percent of the national population), and the officer corps growing from 11 percent to 19 percent.


vs

2005 Charlie Rangel:

U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, a Democrat whose New York City district includes Harlem, said he wasn't too surprised by the Army recruiting data.

"I have not found a black person in support of this war in my district," he said. "The fact that every member of the Congressional Black Caucus - emotionally, politically and vigorously - opposes this war is an indication of what black folks think throughout this country."

Rangel also said there was "overwhelming disappointment" among black citizens after Bush, in a disputed election, became president in 2001. The disappointment "plummeted after he declared war in Iraq," Rangel said.


FITE!
posted by techgnollogic at 10:21 PM on March 8, 2005


the USSR had a lot of military obligations as well. then they went bankrupt and took their entire sphere of influence into desperate poverty. makes a person think, no?
Well, what do you propose we do about those obligations, then? Just leave allies like Japan and South Korea who almost completely rely on us for protection in the dust? All I'm saying is that it's not as easy as just cutting down the budget, there are very serious repercussions that need to be thought out first.
posted by Sangermaine at 10:57 PM on March 8, 2005


I recall another recent poll that also had some surprising results. I'll try to approximate them:

65% of USians still believe Saddam was behind the 9/11 attacks
20% of USians think the sun revolves around the earth.
17% of USians think the earth makes a complete revolution around the sun every day.

The poll for this thread, however, seems to dispute the overwhelming ignorance of the above mentioned one. That is heartening for me so my thanks y2karl for some good news.

On where to cut the defense budget, that's really easy.
1)Star Wars - complete shutdown
2)B2 bombers - why do we need them? To fight the Soviets?
3) JSF - Same as #2
4) Spend MORE on troops and training and equipment for troops. Include higher pay, better benefits (including VA and educational.)
5) If the money goes to a contractor, examine it very closely and seriously consider taking the work in-house and eliminating the contract.
6) Even the Pentagon doesn't know where they spend all that money. It's a LOT of money and they can't account for trillions of it. I'd say that's a problem.
posted by nofundy at 5:36 AM on March 9, 2005


Alot of this makes sense, but the same polling showed that Kerry should have won the election. In other words, IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:39 AM on March 9, 2005


Why, whenever there is a poll, someone always chimes in "my that's a small sample size"?

Oh yes, that's right, intelligence is normally distributed as well.


Freen: Mine's around 140--where do you fall on the bell curve?

I'll admit I don't know jack about statistics, so I'm a little out of my depth on this. I've often wondered, though, if it's sound to assume a normal distribution pattern (probabilities can assume other distribution patterns). And the whole randomly selected participants thing bugs me, too... I mean think about it: In a truly random selection process, there's no reason all the participants couldn't come from a particular geographical region, say (not that it's likely to happen, but if it's a truly random process, there's nothing in theory to prevent it--flip a coin ten times and you could get heads every time; that doesn't mean you wouldn't get just as many tails if you flipped it ten more times). If by some complete fluke, the pollsters ended up randomly hitting only people in the Washington DC area, it would have seemed that 90% of the voters in America planned to vote for Kerry.
posted by all-seeing eye dog at 7:17 AM on March 9, 2005


If they didn't fuck up, and presumably the survey company knows how not to, this stuff gets washed out with the random sampling.

According to their methodology: Our surveys are conducted with probability samples of persons who are members of the web-enabled panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. Initially, participants were chosen scientifically by a random selection of telephone numbers. Persons in selected households were then invited by telephone to participate in the web-enabled panel. Those who agreed to participate were sent an Internet appliance and received an Internet service connection provided by Knowledge Networks. In some cases, people who already had computers and Internet service were permitted to participate using their own equipment. Panelists then received unique log-in information for accessing surveys online, and then were sent emails three-to-four times a month inviting them to participate in research.

So the poll was self selecting for those who:
1) have a phone and don't screen or otherwise ignore calls from those they don't know.
2) willing to take the poll.
3) either had a computer with internet access or were willing to recieve one to take a poll[1]. And have a home to put it in.
4) know already or can be taught in a short time how to use a spreadsheet.
5) are willing to do a poll or better a week.
6) can remember their password or are willing to go thru the hassle of resetting it to take those weekly polls.

Does that seem representive of the American public?

[1] how many here would go through the trouble of setting up a computer and internet access just to complete a poll.
posted by Mitheral at 9:21 AM on March 9, 2005


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