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How well is the American public informed about government spending?

"The public has a better idea of how much the government spends on programs like Social Security and Medicare, but there is a related problem -- cutting them has little public support," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "The result: cutting unpopular programs would probably not cut the deficit very much, and cutting the deficit would probably require cuts in programs that Americans like."

Let's start with international assistance. Sixty percent of people we questioned say they'd like to put foreign aid on the chopping block. So would that make a dent in the deficit?

No -- but try telling that to the American public. According to the poll, on average, Americans estimate that foreign aid takes up 10 percent of the federal budget, and one in five think it represents about 30 percent of the money the government spends.

But the actual figure is closer to 1 percent, according to data from the Office of Management and Budget from the 2010 fiscal year's $3.5 trillion budget.

OK. Let's try more low-hanging fruit -- funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Our survey indicates nearly half of all Americans would like to see major cuts.

According to our poll the public estimates that the government spent 5 percent of its budget last year on public television and radio.

Not even close. The real answer is about one-tenth of 1 percent.

Want more examples?

Cutting pensions and benefits for government workers is popular, but once again most Americans overestimate how much that costs the government.

On average, Americans think the federal government spent 10 percent of its 2010 budget on pensions and retiree benefits; the OMB figures indicate the real number is about 3.5 percent.

A sizeable minority would like to see food and housing assistance for the poor on the chopping block, but Americans' estimates of how much the government spends on those programs are three to four times higher than the actual price tag.

Cuts in military spending also have some support -- more than a third of all Americans favor cuts in that area. But the public, once again, overestimates the amount of military spending. They told us 30 percent in our poll. In reality only 19 percent of the 2010 budget went towards military spending, according to 2010 OMB figures.

What Americans got right are the programs they don't want to cut.

When we ask Americans to guess how much Social Security cost the government in 2010, the median estimate was 20 percent. Not bad, given that OMB figures indicate that Social Security represented 20.4 percent of the federal budget in 2010.

"Budget experts agree that cutting a target that big would be a good start toward getting the deficit under control. Problem is, 87 percent of people we surveyed don't want to decrease the amount of money spent on Social Security -- and four in 10 would like to see that figure grow. The same is generally true for Medicare and Medicaid, which combined made up 19 percent of last year's budget," adds Holland.

Answer Question
 
emilysmom1966

Asked by emilysmom1966 at 7:29 AM on Apr. 2, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 18 (6,228 Credits)
Answers (27)
  • You're right the public is not informed, however I don't believe lawmakers and other government officials are either. They can see the statistics, but they don't see the everyday waste and they just want to cut across the board.
    camiam81

    Answer by camiam81 at 7:50 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • http://www.cafemom.com/answers/795768/Emergency

    I see you had no reply in this question, which was not a copy and paste, like yours. As is evident by mu typos.
    Carpy

    Answer by Carpy at 8:27 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • my*
    Carpy

    Answer by Carpy at 8:27 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • I too think there is a HUGE disparity between what the media tells you, what your believe to be true, and reality, when it comes to MOST things related to politics!!

    Far too many people think discussing politics is boring, and many voters were likely taught that the three things you NEVER discuss (when you don't know your audience) are money, religion and politics--which has lead to MANY people being very much uninformed--and I believe has lead to voter apathy--which has lead to many of the societal issues/stigmas we're faced with today!!
    LoriKeet

    Answer by LoriKeet at 8:31 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • Carpy - carpy once again. I work 50 hour weeks, I don't sit on cafe mom to feed my family. If you wanted me to read it just say so. I hate it when people assume that this is what I do all day!!!
    emilysmom1966

    Comment by emilysmom1966 (original poster) at 8:33 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • The US has more debt than than the total GDP of the world.
    Carpy

    Answer by Carpy at 8:38 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • Sorry Emily, it was posted YESTERDAY at 7:45 PM!! I work full time, plus look after my special needs children, and I managed to see it! Just sayin! :o)
    LoriKeet

    Answer by LoriKeet at 8:39 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • Carpy - carpy once again. I work 50 hour weeks, I don't sit on cafe mom to feed my family. If you wanted me to read it just say so. I hate it when people assume that this is what I do all day!!!

    You had the time to copy and paste this. It is right here on the very first page.
    Carpy

    Answer by Carpy at 8:40 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • Thre is nothing wrong with copy and pasteing especailly if I agreee.
    emilysmom1966

    Comment by emilysmom1966 (original poster) at 8:44 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

  • SO what is your answer then?
    Carpy

    Answer by Carpy at 8:49 AM on Apr. 2, 2011

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