Most Americans are worried about the federal deficit and say the government should cut spending, but few are willing to embrace specific cuts, according to a Pew Research Center survey released Friday.
Seventy percent of Americans think passing major deficit legislation this year is essential, according to an earlier Pew/USA Today poll, and a nearly unanimous majority say deficit reduction efforts should involve spending cuts.
But the recent Pew survey found that most Americans also want to boost funding for education and veterans' benefits, and to increase or leave spending at current levels in areas such as health care, Medicare, Social Security and national defense. In each of the 19 categories polled, fewer than half of the respondents supported cuts.
On the least popular spending category, "aid to the world's needy," opinions were effectively split, with 49 percent favoring increased or level spending, and 48 percent supporting cuts. Foreign aid makes up only a sliver of the nation's budget.
In most areas, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to favor cuts, with the biggest division between the two groups coming on providing aid to the needy, both in the U.S. and overseas.
Support for greater federal spending has fallen considerably over the past 25 years, but has remained relatively unchanged in recent times. Compared to two years ago, only aid to the needy in the U.S. now receives significantly less support for increased spending, while the percentage of those favoring defense cuts has dropped.
The Pew survey interviewed 1,504 adults by phone between Feb. 13 and 18.