Those surveyed last year also wanted more government spending on: nonwelfare assistance to the poor (+53.8), fighting crime (+51.9), Social Security (+47.6), health programs (+46.3), protecting the environment (+45.9), drug rehabilitation (+43.5), highways and bridges (+29.9), solving problems of big cities (+24.1) and improving the condition of blacks (+21).
“The net numbers have always been positive, meaning they want to spend more on things. And the vast majority of them are things that are pretty good: education, health, highways,” Smith said in an interview. “The average — when asked about specific programs — is pro-government spending and always has been. It’s gone up and down as to how pro they are. The pro-spending edge is a little weaker now than it was at its peak.”
Some changes in national priorities are generationally driven and the aging of baby boomers is an important factor as more and more retire.
“The retirees generally think things are about right. Pre-retirees are the group most likely to say (spending on Social Security) is too low. And the youngest generation is the least concerned about putting money into Social Security,” Smith said.