Voters Underestimate How Much U.S. Spends on Defense
Voters are fairly evenly divided as to whether the federal government spends too much or too little on national defense, but most also appear to dramatically underestimate how much is actually spent.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that 27% of Likely Voters say the United States does not spend enough money on the military and national security. Thirty-two percent (32%) say America spends too much on defense, while a plurality (37%) thinks the nation spends about the right amount. (To see survey question wording, click here.)
But only 25% of voters believe the United States should always spend at least three times as much on defense as any other nation. Forty percent (40%) do not think the country needs to spend this much, while 35% are not sure. Interestingly, if the government were to actually spend only three times as much as any other nation, it would imply a significant cut in U.S. defense spending.
For fiscal year 2011, the total budget for defense is estimated to be around $719 billion. That does not include the cost of veterans’ care, which totals another $124 billion. By comparison, no other nation in the world spends more than $110 billion on defense. Earlier polling showed that just 58% recognize that the United States spends more on defense than any other nation in the world.
Underlying voters’ opinions on how much the United States spends on defense is the fact that many don’t know where most of the government’s money already goes. Just 40% can correctly identify that most federal spending goes towards national defense, Social Security and Medicare. Roughly the same number (38%) believes this statement to be false, while another 22% are not sure.
Considering how much of our national discourse these days is devoted to issues like our budget and budget deficit, you’d think people would know a little something about what we spend our money on.
I think Democrats and progressive groups need to devote a little more time and effort to voter education. Maybe some "The More You Know"-type PSAs or something. I don’t know, it just seems like American ignorance on a variety of topics seems to work in the Republicans’ favor, time and again.
And I have to say: this woeful ignorance of the American electorate depresses me. What the hell, America? How do we make this shit sexy so people get a fucking clue? "Real Housewives of the Congressional Budget Office"?