Americans’ attitudes on defense spending is a hot media topic, and it’s again being grounded by the survey we released in May, together with the Program for Public Consultation and the Center for Public Integrity.
Yesterday the Washington Post’s WonkBlog and Politico* asked how a new Foreign Policy Initiative poll could find that 63 percent of respondents believe US defense budget is either “too little” or “about right” while our data showed three-quarters of respondents ready to cut. As we described a few weeks ago when our data was contrasted with figures from the Aerospace Industries Association, it’s all in how you ask the question. Our survey provided extensive data on the budget before asking participants to assess it, while FPI’s respondents expressed their opinion about the size of the budget without having that data on hand.
That’s interesting, but it’s no surprise that differently framed questions yield different perspectives. Perhaps more interesting is some new information that FPI has provided. Unlike our survey, they asked participants which issue is their top voting concern and which national security threats loom largest. The results are an important reminder that today’s top-level political debate is not about defense. National Security is the top voting concern for 5.7 percent of respondents, behind the 49 percent that listed “the economy” and another 9.5 percent that listed “the debt.” Meanwhile the historic safety that we enjoy today seems to have led respondents to list threats that are all over the map without any consensus beyond the 17 percent that put “terrorists” at the top.
We’re excited to remain a grounding for this conversation – expect to see more of it in the weeks to come.
* Politico's article is behind its paywall. We'll add the link in as soon as it becomes publicly available.