February 24, 2014

Plurality of Americans support current level of defense spending


A plurality of Americans say defense spending should be kept at current levels.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s plans to cut back the size of America’s army to pre-World War II levels are likely to run into political opposition on Capitol Hill. The cuts are also at odds with the views of Americans who say spending should be kept as it is, or increased.

Almost half (47%) of the public said military spending should be kept about the same, according to a survey conducted Oct. 30-Nov. 6, 2013. An additional 23% said it should be increased while 28% favored reductions. The findings reflect roughly the same sentiment found in a survey conducted a year ago.

FT_Defense_SpendingAlmost equal numbers of Republicans (50%) and Democrats (47%) favored keeping military spending the same, but they differed sharply when it came to those who wanted to see increases or decreases. Nearly four-in-ten Democrats (39%) would cut the Pentagon budget compared with only 10% of Republicans, while 37% of Republicans would increase defense spending compared with 12% of Democrats.

As a backdrop to the public’s views on military spending, the October-November survey found that 56% of Americans said the U.S. should ensure that it keeps its position as the only military superpower, a view that was virtually unchanged since 2009.

Opinion was more mixed on the question of whether the U.S. relies too much on military strength. About four-in-ten (43%) said American use of its military power was about right while 38% said it was too much and 15% said it was too little.

However, when the military spending question was put into the context of a specific choice — whether reducing the deficit was more important than funding the Pentagon at current levels — Americans said by a 51% to 40% margin that deficit reduction was more important, according to a December 2013 survey.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Government Spending and the Deficit

  1. Photo of Bruce Drake

    is a senior editor at Pew Research Center.


  1. Jim Swayze3 years ago

    I am very disappointed in Pew Institute over this article. Construction is so illogical that one can’t help but see bias at work. Graphs can be from least to most, 1-2-3, or most to least, 3-2-1, but no one constructs a graph 1-3-2 except on purpose. I agree with previous commenters that we deserve an explanation from Bruce Drake. What is your political objective here, Mr. Drake?

  2. Don Schaefer3 years ago

    Sidebar should have been: 70% A majority of Americans say defense spending should be kept at current levels or increased.

    Are you trying to downplay public sentiment by only showing the percentage who want it the same…neglecting to add the number who want to increase it? Hagel and the POTUS are out of touch with what Americans see as important.

  3. roadsterred3 years ago

    We pay enough taxes! It’s government spending that needs to be re-distributed. Currently, if you’re born to a family at or below the poverty level, the government through its multitude of social programs will support you from cradle to grave.

  4. FAWLTYTOWERS443 years ago

    The Great Disease of Leftism (not Liberalism) embraces every enemy of the nation, betrays every friend, destroys every institution, proclaims victory in its failures and failure in other’s accomplishments. It is “vain, morose, treacherous and humorless”. As to Life: It knows the words to the song, but can not hear the music.

  5. Miklos Kiss3 years ago

    Yes, but nobody want to pay for it with taxes.

  6. Barack3 years ago

    Democrats hate America

  7. AB3 years ago

    Were the respondents told the dollar amount of the budget? Or simply asked according to whatever they might believe the amount currently is?

    As polls like those on foreign aid have shown, we Americans are pretty terrible at estimating actual dollar costs, and it’s likely that the respondents think we spend far less than we do.

  8. Bob Honeyman3 years ago

    sounds like it’s time to raise taxes.

  9. Packard Day3 years ago

    Whether the American people like their level of military spending or not, we are approaching the day when their opinions on this question will not matter. We are currently $17.4 trillion in national debt, and have another $50 trillion in “off-the-book” obligations still needed to pay future social security, medicare, and medicaid recipients (who do not seem to have the good taste or patriotism to die promptly on the day they are all scheduled to retire).

    Like other waning empires seen throughout history, it will matter little what American’s want with their military. When the money is gone, so too will the military needed to defend whatever part of the empire is left. Res ipsa loquitur

    1. nb3 years ago

      you have no idea how public financing works.

      interest payments as a percentage of GDP are at a 55-year low. we never pay off our national debt — never have, never will, never will have to.

      its just serviced — we borrow money to make investments in the economy, reduce risk to global trade, and deliver counter-cyclical fiscal stimulus.