Additional Research

Voters are Firm in Support of Spending Cuts on Variety of Fiscal Policies

January 20, 2011
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As was the case throughout the fall campaign, Independents look a lot more like Republicans than Democrats in their policy choices, especially on fiscal issues, even when considering the broader sample of registered voters.


Voters are firm in support of spending cuts, coming down overwhelmingly on the side of less spending in a series of questions focused on fiscal policy, including cutting spending to 2008 levels, cancelling unspent stimulus funds and freezing pay for Federal workers.


General Fiscal Issues



  1. By a two-to-one margin, voters say the federal government’s higher priority should be spending less to reduce the budget deficit rather than spending more to help the economy recover. Voters say the government should spend less by a 61 to 31 percent margin overall, including an 82 to 13 percent margin among Republicans and a 69 to 24 percent margin among Independents. While Democrats say the government should spend more by a 53 to 38 percent margin, the two-fifths of Democrats who prefer cutting spending indicates substantial appetite for deficit reduction.



  2. As Congress prepares to address the federal debt limit, two-thirds of voters prefer an option that includes either “drastic” or “substantial” spending cuts. Presented with three options, voters were split among the top two choices: 34 percent say the national debt limit should not be raised “even if that means forcing a choice between drastic spending cuts or defaulting on current obligations,” and 32 percent say the debt limit should be raised, but “only in exchange for substantial spending cuts.” Twenty-four percent say the debt limit should be raised, but not tied to spending cuts because “we cannot afford to short-change the investments needed to stimulate the economy.”

    Even 57 percent of Democrats prefer an option with some form of spending cuts, 24 percent favor “drastic” spending cuts instead of an increase in the debt limit and 33 percent say it should be raised but tied to “substantial” spending cuts. Nearly 7 of 10 Independents prefer a solution that highlights spending cuts, 35 percent favor “drastic” spending cuts instead of an increase in the debt limit and 34 percent say the debt limit should be raised only if “substantial” spending cuts are made. A plurality of Republicans says the limit should not be raised (46 percent, with 29 percent saying it should be raised but tied to spending cuts).



  3. Voters – including majorities of Independents – agree with statements that we should cut spending levels to 2008 levels. When given the following pair of statements, voters agree that spending should be cut by a 55 to 30 percent margin, including a 67 to 29 percent margin among Independents:

    Congressman A says we should not cut current spending to 2008 levels. The federal government has to do more during times of economic crisis, and spending by the government stimulates the economy and creates jobs.

    Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Individuals and families are making do with less, and the government needs to do the same to reduce the budget deficit.


    Keeping the same argument against cutting current spending, but changing the focus of the argument for cuts to excessive spending hurting the economy yields a 50 to 41 percent margin supporting cuts, including 51 to 38 percent among Independents. Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Excessive Federal spending and too much government has become a drag on the private sector economy, and threatens long-term prosperity.

    Congressman B says we should cut current spending to 2008 levels, before the stimulus and bailout bills were passed. Excessive Federal spending and too much government has become a drag on the private sector economy, and threatens long-term prosperity.



  4. A majority of voters supports cancelling unspent stimulus money to reduce the deficit. Voters prefer cancelling the unspent stimulus money to reduce the deficit by a 50 to 43 percent margin, including a 52 to 38 percent margin among Independents.



  5. Voters across party lines support a pay freeze for Federal workers. Voters overall support a pay freeze for Federal employees by a 73 to 20 percent margin, including a 72 to 20 percent margin among Republicans, a 74 to 19 percent margin among Independents, and a 75 to 19 percent margin among Democrats.


Social Security


A majority of voters – including a plurality of Democrats – agrees that Social Security needs major reforms. Respondents were asked which of the following two statements they agree with more regarding Social Security:

Congressman A says that Social Security needs only minor reforms, with the primary goal being protecting benefits for seniors. Reforms like raising the retirement age or limiting benefits will break faith with workers who have paid into the system for decades.

Congressman B says Social Security needs major reforms in order to maintain the long-term viability of the program and save the federal budget. We need to consider raising the retirement age for younger workers, as well as limiting benefits for wealthy retirees.


Voters agree that Social Security needs major reform by a 52 to 39 percent margin overall, including a 58 to 33 percent margin among Republicans, a 56 to 37 percent margin among Independents, and a 48 to 44 percent margin among Democrats.


Read the full report: Fiscal Issues Remain the Dominant Concern of Voters; Independents Prefer Conservative Policy Approaches on Spending, Energy, Education, and Health Care

Filed under: Free Market Economy, Independent Voters, Spending And Debt, Polling Analysis, 2012 Election, Social Security, and Tax Policy