Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

79 Percent of Americans Say Federal Spending Hasn't Improved America's Quality of Life, 49 Percent Support Going Back to Clinton-Era Spending Levels

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Adjusted for inflation, federal spending per capita has increased approximately 39 percent since 1992, yet a new Reason-Rupe poll finds 79 percent of Americans believe the government's spending increases have reduced the quality of life or made no impact on the quality of life in the country during that time.  Forty percent say the increases in federal spending over the last 20 years reduced the quality of life in the country and 39 percent say the increases had no impact on the quality of life. Just 17 percent feel federal spending increases improved the quality of life in America.

Nearly half the country, 49 percent, says it would help the economy if the federal government returned to Clinton-era spending levels, while 30 percent believe it would make no difference and 12 percent think returning to those spending levels would hurt the economy.

An even larger number, 61 percent, support cutting military spending back to the amount that was spent before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, while 25 percent oppose such a reduction.

In an open-ended question about what specific things the government spends too much money on, defense spending took the top spot, named by 21 percent. Congress itself—its pay and perks—was singled-out by 17 percent, followed by foreign aid at 13 percent and welfare and social programs, also at 13 percent.

When asked, open-ended, how much money the federal government wastes, the median response was that that the federal government squanders 50 cents out of every tax dollar.

Two entitlement reforms that were often mentioned during the fiscal cliff negotiations—raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security and Medicare drew little support in the poll. Sixty-six percent of Americans oppose raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, while 31 percent favor doing so. Similarly, 56 percent oppose means-testing Social Security or Medicare, 40 percent favor means-testing the programs.

When asked, open-ended, what President Barack Obama's top priority should be during his second term, 29 percent say the economy, 19 percent would like him to focus on jobs and 13 percent say balancing the budget and reducing the deficit.

The Reason-Rupe poll conducted live interviews with 1,000 adults on mobile (500) and landline (500) phones from January 17-21, 2013. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3.8 percent. Princeton Survey Research Associates International executed the nationwide survey.

Although Congress recently set aside the government's borrowing limit until May, 64 percent of Americans say Congress should not raise the debt ceiling and 29 percent say it should be raised.  If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, 25 percent expect it would create a "major" economic crisis, 30 percent think it would cause a "minor" economic downturn and 22 percent say it would help the economy.

Three-quarters, 75 percent, of Americans consider the national debt a "major problem" that must be addressed now, 20 percent say it is a major problem that should be addressed when the economy has improved and just 3 percent of Americans say the debt is "not much of a problem."

Looking back at the past year, 53 percent of Americans say Congress had a negative impact on the economy and just 10 percent think Congress made a positive impact on the economy. Given the opportunity to use any word to describe Congress, the public overwhelmingly chose words like inept, incompetent and selfish.  Overall, 17 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and 74 percent disapprove.

Meanwhile, 52 percent approve of the job President Obama is doing and 42 percent disapprove. The public is split over how the president is handling the economy, with 48 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving.

The full poll is online here (.pdf) and additional resources are available here. This is the latest in a series of Reason-Rupe public opinion surveys dedicated to exploring what Americans really think about government and major issues.  This Reason Foundation project is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Arthur N. Rupe Foundation.

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  1. Ninety-five percent of the Americans who want to see a reduction in government spending don’t want their government goodies cut. (Five percent margin of error.)

      1. I hear ya, bro.

        1. Fist is the only person in the world with enough money to purchase a network connection co-located with the HyR servers (they practically share a hamster wheel) so he can hit these threads first.

          1. Nonsense. I don’t have money at all. I simply have Ernesto my Filipino manservant tell me when there’s a commentless post requiring my attention.

            1. Does Ernesto type or do your servants specialize?

              1. I think he deligates the typing to one of his assistants. Or maybe that’s a subcontractor. I can’t keep track of their schemes.

                1. Judging by the way he spells “delegates”, your typist must be moonlighting as John’s H&R helper

                  1. That’s how Americans have decided it’s spelt now.

                    1. Touche, Ernesto, touche

            2. Ernesto my Filipino manservant

              aka: Rentboy

              1. No. They have a better union than you would think.

  2. 79 Percent of Americans Say Federal Spending Hasn’t Improved America’s Quality of Life, 49 Percent Support Going Back to Clinton-Era Spending Levels

    30 percent of Americans would row harder toward Niagara Falls in hopes of getting airborne and making a soft landing downriver.

    1. NICE!

  3. First!

    They’re for reducing spending until they find out their ox is getting gored, too.

    1. I suppose essentially your assertion is first.

  4. Nearly half the country, 49 percent, says it would help the economy if the federal government returned to Clinton-era spending levels

    Fifty percent of Americans say the nation is divided; the other fifty percent say it is not.

    /Jay Leno

  5. Two entitlement reforms that were often mentioned during the fiscal cliff negotiations?raising the retirement age and means-testing Social Security and Medicare drew little support in the poll. Sixty-six percent of Americans oppose raising the retirement age from 65 to 67, while 31 percent favor doing so. Similarly, 56 percent oppose means-testing Social Security or Medicare, 40 percent favor means-testing the programs.

    I am shocked at the overwhelming opposition to raising the retirement age. I can understand that someone 60 years old might oppose having to work an extra few years, but for the number to be 66% , the majority of younger adults must have agreed.

    1. I’m going to love watching all this shit burn burn burn.

    2. who wants to work longer? Anyone? I suppose there are a few type-A people out there who enjoy it, but I’m looking forward to the days when I don’t have to drive in to work or telecommute.

      1. I’ll be living in my van, down by the river.

  6. IOW, cut spending but don’t touch the big three (SS, Medicare/caid).

    My wingnut BIL thinks that “welfare moms” are 90% of the federal budget (except he uses a racist substitution).

  7. America is a truly solvent country, America is a truly credible country.
    http://p.washingtontimes.com/n…..b-czar-cl/

    1. Pleine foi et cr?dit, B?b?!

      (It is too bad that this comment does not appear to be written in an English script.)

  8. You know we’re in trouble when people talk about the good ol’ days of Clintonomics.

  9. I’m convinced that Rick W. Perry started diving in the GOP polls when he called SS a Ponzi scheme and not when he stammered like a fool in the debates.

  10. Now look at them yo-yo’s that’s the way you do it
    You play the guitar on the MTV
    That ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
    Money for nothin’ and chicks for free
    Now that ain’t workin’ that’s the way you do it
    Lemme tell ya them guys ain’t dumb
    Maybe get a blister on your little finger
    Maybe get a blister on your thumb

    1. Bev-er-ly Bev-er-ly Bev-er-ly Hillbillies
      Bev-er-ly Bev-er-ly Bev-er-ly Hillbillies

  11. the median response was that that the federal government squanders 50 cents out of every tax dollar.

    Really? The middle answer was half of the possible total? Mind-blowing. I probably could have guessed that without seeing any results. Are you sure you didn’t pick median because it was a better number that fits with your desired results? While I believe the government squanders upwards of 75% of every tax dollar (without seeing any numbers), I don’t have that much faith in the public-at-large.

  12. I’m pretty impressed with the respondents to this poll. They believe we should go back to Clinton era spending, which was $1.7 trillion at its highest, AND they believe we waste $0.50 of every dollar. Considering we spend $3.5 trillion on average under Obama, there sense of things is really, really good. Typically, the average American that is polled for these kinds of answers couldn’t find his/her ass with both hands. Clearly this is an outlier as there is too little cognitive dissonance within the answers, but lets just go with it anyways.

  13. If the Republicans were smart, cutting spending “back to Clinton levels” would be their central economic proposal. They have to throw Bush under the bus to do so, but it would be worth it to watch Democrats throw Clinton under the bus. Also, if half favor it and a lot more say it won’t hurt anything, why not? The Democrats are standing with the 12%.

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