National Debt

Fifty Seven Percent of Americans Want Washington to Focus On Reducing Spending

Washington has a spending problem, not a revenue problem.


After billions in bailouts and stimulus spending, recent Reason-Rupe poll results reveal public sentiment has turned against government spending and shifted toward spending cuts. Although many Americans are not necessarily opposed to raising revenues (taxes) in some form or to raising taxes on the wealthy, the consensus wants Washington to focus on spending cuts, rather than on raising revenues.

Seventy seven percent of Americans believe the federal government should have a spending cap that prevents it from spending more than it takes in during a given year—62 percent believe this strongly. In addition, 69 percent favor a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, with 50 percent strongly favoring such a reform.

Please tell me whether you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The federal government should have a spending cap that prevents it from spending more than it takes in during a given year."

Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget?

Respondents were asked about their preferred solution to reducing the $14.3 trillion national debt. At 57 percent, the most preferred solution was to focus on reducing spending, and possibly increasing some taxes. Only 23 percent wanted equal emphasis on both tax increases and spending cuts, while only 15 percent wanted to primarily rely on tax increases. Moreover, the plurality response at 37 percent was to decrease spending with no tax increases.

Overall, these results suggest that although the public is not necessarily averse to some revenue increases, the majority wants Washington to focus on reducing government spending.

Click here for full survey results.

Survey Methods

The Reason-Rupe Q3 2011 poll collected a nationally representative sample of 1200 respondents, aged 18 and older from all 50 states and the District of Columbia using live telephone interviews from August 9th-18th 2011. The margin of sampling error for this poll is ± 3 percent. The margin of error for the GOP presidential race numbers is ± 4.79%. Interviews were conducted with respondents using both landline (790) and mobile phones (410). Landline respondents were randomly selected within households based on the adult who had the most recent birthday. Sample was weighted by gender, age, ethnicity, and Census region, based on the most recent US Census data. The sampling frame included landline and mobile phone numbers generated using Random Digit Dialing (RDD) methods and randomly selected numbers from a directory-listed sample. Click here for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.

NEXT: "What do you think of interracial marriage? It would be hard, offhand, to think of a question less relevant to libertarianism"

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  1. Sorry for the threadjack, but check out this now-happening slander at

    “Why libertarians apologize for autocracy” by Michael Lind

    1. And your still late.

    2. Sorry for the threadjack

      It’s at least the fourth one, and I’m still not going there.

    3. No you’re not, but you are stupid.

    4. Why would I go over to Salon to get pissed at some halfassed political hit-piece? Other than the odd Hitchens column, there’s nothing over there that’s even worth skimming.


    6. What kind of smart phone do you use?

  2. You know you should really start off with a question like “Do you receive any government benefits (ie, food stamps, medicare, etc.)?” and then follow up with “Would you be willing to give up or reduce some of those benefits in order to reduce government spending?”

    As many have said time and time again, it’s easy to be for reducing spending that goes toward others. The real test is if you’re willing to give up your own sacred cow.

  3. So Tony is of the 7% crowd.

  4. By the way why isn’t cut spending and cut taxes an option?

    1. Because the Laffer Curve is the conservative version of Keynesian economics. Let it go.

      I’d like to be a good libertarian and say that we can balance the budget through spending cuts alone, but that just isn’t realistic. To pay the national debt off in 30 years would take a surplus of nearly 500 billion per year. Not likely when you’ve got a hoarde of baby boomers trying to retire. The income growth is just not going to be there.

  5. Jim Epstein and Matt Welch already stole your story below.


  6. For a guy who spends a lot of time advocating for higher taxes, Warren Buffett does a remarkably good job of minimizing his own corporate tax bill. This is all to the good for Mr. Buffett and his fellow Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, who no doubt can invest the money more wisely than the federal government is likely to do.

    Mr. Buffett’s recent decision to invest in Bank of America represents another tax-avoidance triumph for the Berkshire chief executive. U.S. corporations are subject to a top federal income tax rate of 35%, the second highest in the world. But the Journal’s Erik Holm notes that Mr. Buffett and the Berkshire bunch won’t pay anything close to that on their investment in BofA preferred shares.

    That’s because corporations can exclude from taxation 70% of the dividends they receive from an investment in another corporation. This exclusion is intended to prevent double- or even triple-taxation as money is earned by one company, paid to another company and then ultimately paid out to shareholders. The policy makes sense; we only wonder why the exclusion isn’t 100%.

    With the 70% exclusion for Mr. Buffett and his fellow shareholders, Berkshire will enjoy an effective tax rate of 10.5% on the $300 million in dividends it will receive each year from Bank of America.…..oveLEFTTop

  7. Citizens! In all times, two political systems have been in existence, and each may be maintained by good reasons. According to one of them, Government ought to do much, but then it ought to take much. According to the other, this two-fold activity ought to be little felt. We have to choose between these two systems. But as regards the third system, which partakes of both the others, and which consists in exacting everything from Government, without giving it anything, it is chimerical, absurd, childish, contradictory, and dangerous. Those who parade it, for the sake of the pleasure of accusing all governments of weakness, and thus exposing them to your attacks, are only flattering and deceiving you, while they are deceiving themselves.

    For ourselves, we consider that Government is and ought to be nothing whatever but the united power of the people, organized, not to be an instrument of oppression and mutual plunder among citizens; but, on the the contrary, to secure to every one his own, and to cause justice and security to reign.

    Seems we have that third system.

  8. Suggestion to Nick as editor of and Emily:

    Hey this a shit load of information to digest. how about next time you guys spread it out over a week’s time so we can digest it and reasonably comment on it?

    There have been like 5 posts on really interesting stuff that their is no way your readers can get to in one sitting.

    1. Reading is hard. I want more pictures.

      1. But clearly, bitchy nagging isn’t hard. At least not for you.

          1. Go back to your cartoons and graphic novels, nitwits.

    2. The Reason Intern position is still open…

    3. There have been like 5 posts on really interesting stuff that their is no way your readers can get to in one sitting.

      Alt text would help with that.

  9. Okay, look, if Reason is going to be conducting these surveys all the time, they need to get a little more specific (read useful) with their questions. Of course a lot of people think the government should reduce spending, in the most abstract possible sense. But let’s get down to business and figure out which spending cuts people actually support.

    I suggest asking questions about the Big Three: military, Social Security, and Medicare, which account for more than half of the entire budget. Also, ask about cutting different departments, like education, energy, etc. These abstract questions don’t tell us much.

    1. Oh wait, now that I’m actually reading the fucking survey, I see you did a lot of that already.

      Looks like good-sized majorities think people should be allowed to opt of out SS and Medicare. But I’m not sure how that answer jibes with huge majorities saying everyone that paid into SS should get benefits, and that they would not be willing to reduce their own personal benefits to balance the budget.

      1. The question i’d like to see asked is “If the government promised you all of your Social Security money back @2% interest and you’re out of the program for good, would you take it?”

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