Government Spending

On What Do You Think The Government Spends the Most Money?

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In the latest Reason-Rupe poll, respondents were asked to use their own words to list which things the federal government spends the most money on. Answers were categorized and coded and then compared with actual government spending data. These data display the first responses given to what the government spends the most money on. These data demonstrate that respondents' first responses overestimated spending for defense and the military and underestimated spending for mandatory spending programs, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, in part because they underestimated the spending to means-tested mandatory programs.

Source: Office of Management and Budget Historical Tables. 2011. Table 8.3 "Percentage Distribution of Outlays by Budget Enforcement Act Category: 1962-2016"

UPDATE: For clarification I replaced the second pie chart with a table "Percentage Distribution of Outlays by Budget Enforcement." Survey respondent percentages should not be directly compared to the federal budget percentages. Instead, the table "Percentage Distribution of Outlays by Budget Enforcement" provides a context for which to interpret survey results.

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. Clickhere for full methodological details. NSON Opinion Strategy conducted the poll's fieldwork. View full methodology.

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  1. It would help if you color coded these things the same way in both charts. Or at least, bundle mandatory spending together as “entitlements” in the same way as in the first chart.

    Good idea, needs tweaking.

  2. Looks like 3% got it right.

  3. I like the sharing,the sharing is very good.
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  4. Can you build a Word Cloud based on the answers that got bucketed into “Ambiguous”?

    I’m imagining something like: murder-bilderburg-illegals-fluoride-cigar-mindcontrol-alien-mistress-gold-secret-muffins

  5. I hate lefties. Why people would fall for “the government is spending most of our money on defense” mantra these days is beyond me, but I know a good 20-25% of the population whose wisdom we’d be better off without.

    1. Why people would fall for “the government is spending most of our money on defense” mantra these days is beyond me

      If you separate “Entitlements” into SS & Medicare (& Other), then it’s basically a rounding error from being right.

      1. If you call spades radishes and round down by 100, a donkey may look a lot like a pill bug.

      2. I fail to consider Social Security an “entitlement” since most people pay into that system from their paychecks. It would seem more comparable to a government-run 401k (except that the government borrowed against it to pay for other things).

  6. Nobody said ‘interest’?

    I would assume the government spends at least as much on interest as national defense.

    It would be great if there was another chart showing the actual numbers. I can’t believe it wasn’t included.

    1. Those numbers were in the table below the graph. Wed spend roughly 3-4 times as much on defense as we do on interest.

      But if bond yields start to spike we’re pretty fucked.

  7. How much is paid out to those that don’t pay in???

  8. It would help if you color coded these things the same way in both charts. Or at least, bundle mandatory spending together as “entitlements” in the same way as in the first chart.

  9. is a perceptual view based on a belief that something circumstancial, be it a trinket of some sort, a lucky charm, or a mystical belief based on supersticious ideas can cause situations to work out for your right time and the right place has some merit in regards to this; however, I think that to be successful requires greatly detailed thought processes which evaluate a purpose and identify the steps needed to create the desired successful outcome. Once this type of integrated thought is realized the work begins. To take what is written down as the plan of success and implement it through determined effort towards the accomplishment of the success plan is what makes it happen. Thought is the genorater initially as you must research what is needed to make your plan a success. It’s like that old saying, “I think and therefore I am.” – ????? ??????
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