New survey data released on Monday show that voters from both parties support large cuts to the Pentagon budget, dealing a potential blow to Republicans who have sought to make reduced defense spending a campaign headache for President Obama.
The survey, conducted by the Program for Public Consultation, the Stimson Center and the Center for Public Integrity, revealed that 80 percent of voters in districts represented by Democrats and 74 percent in Republican districts wanted lower defense spending.
While Democratic districts supported larger cuts than their Republican counterparts, the latter still said they would slash defense spending by 15 percent. Such a reduction would leave the Pentagon budget almost $97 billion lower than this year's level.
Under the budget deal passed in 2011, the Department of Defense will face $500 billion in across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, starting next year, unless Congress is unable to unable to agree on a different plan. Politicians of both parties, along with defense officials, have sharply criticized the potential cuts, with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta calling them a "goofy meat ax approach." But the one-year cut favored by voters in the survey was much larger than the one mandated by sequester, which would require the Pentagon to shed about $50 billion annually for 10 years.
Sequestration passed Congress with strong bipartisan support, but Republicans have attempted to lay the blame for the cuts and their potential impact on defense jobs at the feet of President Obama. As Obama campaigned in Virginia last week, the Romney campaign held a conference call with GOP congressmen from the area surrounding the massive Norfolk Naval Base, accusing Obama of destroying jobs in military-heavy districts.
"He has a huge box of pink slips that he's going to distribute across Virginia," said Rep. Randy Goode (R-Va.) of Obama. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, also from Virginia, echoed the comments in a statement released on Tuesday.
Sequester, along with Obama's economic policies, wrote Cantor, "will result in fewer jobs, higher taxes on small businesses and working families, and compromise the ability of the United States to defend itself at home and abroad."
Defense contractors have also picked up the theme, with the Aerospace Industries Association issuing a report on Tuesday saying that defense cuts could cost up to 2 million jobs. Several contractors will also testify on potential job losses before the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday morning.
But according to the survey, such arguments hold little sway among voters, even ones in districts where the military and defense industry have a large presence. The Program for Public Consultation wrote that "there was no statistical correlation between the level of defense spending in a district and the level of support for defense cuts."
The program's director, Steven Kull, said on Monday that "the idea that Americans would want to keep total defense spending up so as to preserve local jobs is not supported by the data."
Start of War: Oct. 7, 2001
<em>American soldiers hide behind a barricade during an explosion, prior to fighting with Taliban forces November 26, 2001 at the fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)</em>
Number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: 88,000
<em>US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed from the USS Bataan's Amphibious Ready Group arrive December 14, 2001 at an undisclosed location with field gear and weapons. (Photo by Johnny Bivera/Getty Images)</em>
Number of Troops at War's Peak
<em>U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield 13 December, 2001. (DAVE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the war's peak: About 101,000 in 2010. Allies provided about 40,000.
<em>U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Withdrawal plans: 23,000 U.S. troops expected to come home by the end of the summer, leaving about 68,000 in Afghanistan. Most U.S. troops expected to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, though the U.S. is expected to maintain a sizeable force of military trainers and a civilian diplomatic corps.
Number of U.S. Casualties
<em>American flags, each one representing the 4,454 American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, move in the breeze at The Christ Congregational United Church March 17, 2008 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. casualties: At least 1,828 members of the U.S. military killed as of Tuesday, according to an Associated Press count. According to the Defense Department, 15,786 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action.
Afghan Civilian Casualties
<em>Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Afghan civilian casualties: According to the United Nations, 11,864 civilians were killed in the conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began reporting statistics, and the end of 2011.
Cost of the War
<em>An Iraqi man counts money behind a pile of American dollars in his currency exchange bureau in Baghdad on April 11, 2012. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Cost of the war: $443 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Number of Times Obama Has Visited Afghanistan
<em>US President Barack Obama speaks to troops during a visit to Bagram Air Field on May 1, 2012 in Afghanistan. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> Number of times Obama has visited Afghanistan: 3 as president, including Tuesday, and 1 as a presidential candidate.