Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Americans Favor Airstrikes to Combat ISIS But Are Unsure How to Pay for It

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The latest Reason-Rupe poll finds that a solid majority—66 percent—of Americans favors conducting air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. While 52 percent oppose sending ground troops to Iraq, 58 percent believe sending at least a small number of troops (24%) or even a large number (34%) will be necessary to successfully combat ISIS.

While Politicians often wish to avoid discussing trade-offs, the Reason-Rupe poll asked Americans how they would like to pay for military against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Somewhat predictably, two groups emerge: 35 percent say cut non-entitlement federal spending, another 34 percent say raise taxes on wealthy people. Another 8 percent say we should raise taxes on all income groups, 6 percent want to borrow the money, and 4 percent want to cut entitlement programs to pay for military action.

If federal spending had to be cut to pay for military action, Americans say they would first cut social safety net programs (19%) like food stamps, unemployment benefits, and Medicaid, another 17 percent say they would cut infrastructure and transportation spending. Nine percent would cut government-funded science and medical research, 7 percent would cut entitlement programs, 3 percent would cut education, 2 percent would cut veterans programs. In fact, a total of 8 percent actually volunteered another answer that was not offered on the survey: cutting Congressional salaries. Another three percent said there were literally no programs that could be cut. One middle-aged man from Philadelphia said "none of the programs" could be cut because "they are all vital to our survival." Twelve percent offered a variety of other smaller programs to cut, and another 19 percent didn't know what to cut.

Overall, these data reflect a predictable pattern—Americans want other people to bear the costs of various government activity, either in form of taxing rich people or cutting social services for low-income individuals.

The Reason-Rupe national telephone poll, executed by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, conducted live interviews with 1004 adults on cell phones (503) and landlines (501) October 1-6, 2014. The poll's margin of error is +/-3.8%. Full poll results can be found here including poll toplines (pdf)  and crosstabs (xls).