Political scholars say balanced budgets will elude Reagan
Washington — Guns and butter together are likely as out of reach for the Reagan administration as they have been for other recent United States presidents. This is among the conclusions from a Monitor survey of 526 political scholars at the recent American Political Science Association (APSA) convention in New York City Sept. 3 to 6.
Other findings from the scholars' review of Reagan economic, defense, foreign , and domestic policies include:
* By more than 7 to 1, the political experts think Reagan will not be able to balance the federal budget in his first term.
* In defense matters, a majority think the US is spending "too much" rather than "too little" for weapons. A majority also think the US is "about equal" in strenth to the Soviet Union, and oppose the MX missile and the neutron bomb.
* In foreign policy, the scholars think Reagan is not moving quickly enough toward serious SALT (strategic arms limitation talks) with the Soviet Union. They are fairly evenly divided over whether the US will hold its place among Western powers.
* On balance, the scholars think Reagan's domestic programs will be more harmful than helpful, with the environment, abortion, and women's rights heading the list of their concerns.
The Monitor's 50-question survey was intended as a timely appraisal -- eight months into the Reagan administration and after many of its policy goals have been defined -- of a wide range of political issues and trends. the 526 who voluntarily responded were among the 2,500 APSA scholars who attended the conference.
In the domestic arena, the scholars tended to see Reagan's budget and tax cuts, and social security and energy plans as the least "harmful" and most effective. Still, they rated his economic program negatively. Sixty-five percent of the scholars thought Reagan's budget cuts would prove harmful, 35 percent helpful. By 2 to 1 his tax cuts also were even more negative: 89 percent harmful on the environment, 87 percent harmful on abortion and women's rights, and 84 percent harmful on race relations.
Asked whether they thought Reagan's actions in these areas would have "much effect" or "little effect," Reagan's budget cuts were thought to have "much effect" by 89 percent of the scholars, his tax cuts "much effect" by 78 percent. On the environment his actions were rated likely to have "much effect" by 76 percent, energy by 66 percent, and social security ad race relations 53 percent. By majorities of 59 percent of women's rights and abortion, the scholars thought his actions would have little effect.
Generally, the scholars' review of Reagan domestic policies followed their own mostly Democratic and liberal leanings.
On handling national defense, the scholars disapproved of Reagan's performance by 72 percent to 28 percent. The general public, by contrast, approved of Reagan's defense performance by 57 percent of 26 percent in the Gallup poll at the end of June. The conservative and middle-of-the-road political experts approved of Reagan's defense handling, by 4 to 1 and 3 to 2 margins. On military spending, 63 percent of the scholars thought Reagan is spending "too much," 23 percent about the right amount, and 14 percent too little.
Sixty-three percent of the political scholars thought the US is equal in military strength to the Soviet Union, 23 percent thought the US superior, 13 percent not as strong. the general public, in a CBS-New York Times survey in late June, divided about evenly between thinking the US was equal (39 percent) or not as strong (42 percent) as the Soviet Union, and 11 percent thought the US superior.
By 4 to 1, the political experts thought the US should not deploy the MX missile system. However, if the MX were deployed, 51 percent thought it should be by an aircraft-based launching system, 42 percent by a land-based system -- and another 7 percent volunteered a sea-based solution.
By 2 to 1 -- 65 percent to 35 percent -- they thought the US should not produce and ready the neutron bomb.
As to US involvement in a war in the next few years, 57 percent of the scholars thought war "somewhat likely," 26 percent "very likely," and 28 percent "not likely."
Asked if they thought the Reagan administration can meet its goals of a military buildup and a balanced federal budget by 1984, 88 percent of the scholars said no.
On his handling of foreign policy, the political scholars again disapproved by 3 to 1. The APSA scholars who specialized in international relations were only alittle more favorable, disapproving Reagan's handling of foreign policy by a 2-to-1 margin. The public, in a late June CBS-NYT survey, gave Reagan an almost 2-to-1 vote of approval on the same question.
The scholars want faster action from Reagan on SALT. Sixty-nine percent want him to move more quickly, while 28 percent think the pace about right, and only 3 percent think Reagan's too fast.
Reagan's rule is not expected to have much effect on the stature of the US among its allies. Forty-one percent of the political scientists think America's relative power will stay the same; the remainder split about eveny between US power increasing or decreasing.
On his handling of the economy, the APSA scholars again rate Reagan negatively, by about 3 to 1. The outnumbered Republican scholars gave Reagan an 84 percent approval rating on the economy, the Democrats 83 percent disapproval, independents 61 percent disapproval.The public, in a mid-August Gallup survey, approved Ragan's economic performance by a 53 percent to 35 percent margin.
Reagan's promise to balance the budget by 1984 is scorned by the political scholars, with 88 percent thinking he will be unable to do it. Even the conservative scholars by 64 percent to 36 percent, and the Republicans by 52 percent to 48 percent, think Reagan will fail in his budget-balancing attempt. However, the scholars look more favorably on the goal of a balanced budget than might have been expected, given their Democratic-liberal leanings. Asked "should Reagan balance the budget by 1984," 43 percent said they thought he should, and 57 percent thought he should not.
On social scurity, the political scientists generally agree with the public's assessment that the system is in serious trouble. By 3 to 1, the scholars think it is in trouble; by 2 to 1 the public thinks so.
The University of Connecticut's Roper Center, directed by Everett C. Ladd, assisted in the design, processing, and analysis of the survey. The APSA, Thomas E. Mann, executive director, assisted in its distribution.