With all the talk about spending cuts, it may come as a shock that less Americans favor cuts now than in 1980.


In fact, a recent Harris poll found that in only one category had cuts become more popular: defense spending.

The survey measured Americans' tolerance for spending cuts in 20 areas. A majority approved of cuts in only six of those areas.

Foreign economic aid topped the list at 75 percent, followed by foreign military aid, spending by regulatory agencies and space programs. A majority also favored cutting subsidies to business and federal welfare spending.

At 11 percent, Social Security payments was the least popular item to cut. Only 24 percent were in favor of cutting health care. Cutting federal aid to education, revenue sharing with states and cities, federal highway financing and federal jobs programs were also unpopular.

On average, cutting spending programs was almost 15 points less popular than compared with the same survey in 1980. Defense spending was the only area that more Americans said they wanted to cut.

President Barack Obama's Republican foes in the US Congress have slammed his 2012 budget as failing to slash spending deeply enough as they pressed for approving a far-reaching package of painful cuts.

"We need a government that finally does what every other American has to do in their households and their businesses, and that's to live within our means," House Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor said in a statement.

"Instead, President Obama's budget doubles down on the bad habits of the past four years by calling for more taxes, spending and borrowing of money that we simply do not have," said Cantor.

The document -- essentially a non-binding plan laying out Obama's priorities and vision for the United States ahead of his reelection bid next year -- predicted a record $1.65-trillion budget deficit for 2011.

The plan envisions cutting that shortfall by more than one trillion dollars over the next 10 years, predicts a sharp drop in unemployment to 8.6 percent from the current 9.3 percent, and forecasts 3.6-percent growth.

But that last figure was much higher than expected by the International Monetary Fund, drawing charges it was overly rosy, and Republicans seized on the blueprint's expectations that the national debt will soar by several trillion dollars over the next decade.

"I still don't see a sense of urgency from the president about the massive federal debt. His budget calls for too much government borrowing -- even though the debt is already at a level that makes it harder to create private-sector jobs," said senior Republican Senator Lamar Alexander.

Republicans also complained that the measure did not lay out an aggressive plan for reining in so-called "entitlement" spending -- notably on the Medicare health program for the elderly -- that threatens to widen the US fiscal chasm.

Cantor said a new approach is needed if the budget tackles these entitlement programs such as Social Security retirement and Medicare.

"We're serious in trying to change the culture here and actually begin to reduce the spending in Washington," he said.

####

CUTTING SPECIFIC GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS - TREND

"Below is a list of different areas of federal government spending. For each, please indicate if you would favor a major cut in spending, a minor cut, no cut at all, or would you increase spending in this area?"

Summary of those saying "favor a major cut" or "favor a minor cut"

Base: All Adults

 

Favor Cut (NET)

Change 1980-2011

1980

2008

2011

 

%

%

%

%

Foreign economic aid

82

74

75

-7

Foreign military aid

77

69

69

-8

Spending by the regulatory agencies generally

72

53

56

-16

Space programs

66

49

54

-12

Subsidies to business

69

62

51

-18

Federal welfare spending

69

52

51

-18

Federally funded scientific research programs

51

35

42

-9

Farm subsidies

53

44

42

-11

Defense spending

34

35

41

7

Federal housing programs

54

39

41

-13

The food stamp program

65

43

40

-25

Pollution control

49

22

37

-12

Spending for mass transportation

42

28

35

-7

Federal aid to cities

58

33

34

-24

Federal jobs programs

57

34

33

-24

Federal highway financing

59

24

31

-28

Revenue sharing with states and cities

53

30

28

-25

Health care

37

12

24

-13

Federal aid to education

37

17

21

-16

Social security payments

23

8

11

-12

-- with AFP