November 23, 2010

Knowledge Deficit

39%

While most Americans know the deficit is larger now than it was in the 1990s, most are not familiar with where government money goes.

Americans are well aware that the government is currently running up record-sized budget deficits. Fully 77% of the public knows that the federal government’s deficit is larger today than it was in the 1990s. On a 13-question political knowledge quiz, a question about the relative size of the deficit was among the most successfully answered by the public. In fact, only a question about the BP oil spill was answered correctly by more Americans. The public, however, is considerably less knowledgeable about budget specifics. In a separate question, Americans were asked which activities the U.S. government currently spends the most money on: national defense, education, Medicare or interest on the national debt? Just 39% of Americans were able to correctly identify national defense. Nearly a quarter believed that interest on the national debt (23%) consumes the most money, while 15% said Medicare and 4% said education. Another 19% admitted they did now know the answer. While there was no significant partisan difference on knowledge about the size of the deficit, Democrats (46%) and independents (44%) were more likely than Republicans (28%) to know that the government spends more on national defense than on the other items listed. Republicans are as likely to say the government spends most on interest on the debt (29%) as on defense (28%). Read More