On this scale, top-ranked “improving education” in 2012 scored +68.4 while bottom-rated foreign aid scored a -60.4.
Support for defense spending has swung back and forth between negative and positive over four decades. It posted a -28.4 in 1973 near the end of the politically divisive Vietnam War, turned positive in 1978 and peaked at +48.9 in 1980. It returned to negative territory from 1983 to 2000. But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks and the start of the war in Afghanistan, support for more defense spending again went positive — through 2004. But it turned negative again as U.S. military involvement in Iraq increased and has been negative ever since.
Conversely, Social Security has always been in positive territory. Most people have favored increased spending on this program since the mid-80s, with the exception of 1993 and 1994.
On other issues: Most Americans in the poll favored increased spending for assistance to the poor (64 percent), improving the nation’s health (61 percent) and Social Security (56 percent). Most also favored greater spending on domestic and social issues including education (76 percent), developing alternative energy sources (62 percent), reducing the crime rate (59 percent), improving the environment (57 percent) and dealing with drug addiction (56 percent).
Despite all this support for increasing spending, the survey found that 52 percent believed their own federal income taxes last year were too high, 46 percent said about right and just 3 percent said too low.
Taxes are a sore point in efforts to strike a deficit-reduction deal on Capitol Hill. The president insists any new package must contain a mix of spending cuts and new revenues from limiting tax deductions benefiting the wealthy. Republicans, especially those who control the House, adamantly oppose new taxes on the wealthy and corporations.
Of the 23 categories in the survey, only five received negative scores — foreign aid (-60.4), welfare (-28.5), assistance to big cities (-23.4), space exploration (-9.0) and defense spending (-6.3)
If the people participating in the survey were to make federal budget decisions, those five programs presumably would be the only ones to see their spending slashed. The other 18 would get more money.