Defense cuts: three things Americans should know

The US House approved a bill in July that’s likely to spark a showdown on military spending.

2. Most Americans, regardless of political party, support more defense cuts

A new study finds that Americans want more defense cuts than do the politicians who represent them. They are also willing to accept on the order of one-quarter more cuts in military spending than the Obama administration is proposing. The White House has been anxious to seem hawkish on defense, particularly in an election year.

Americans surveyed by the Stimson Center proposed the highest cuts for the Afghan war, where they would like spending to be $53 billion. Annual spending in Afghanistan currently totals $115 billion. The administration has proposed a drop to $89 billion.

Most interesting to Matthew Leatherman, a research analyst at Stimson, is that support for defense cuts is equally strong in congressional districts that would stand to lose the most from them – in other words, areas where big defense corporations and jobs are based.

Indeed, 75 percent of voters in the top 10 percent of districts that benefit the most from defense spending actually want more cuts than the average of voters in the survey.

There was a slight partisan divide, Mr. Leatherman says. Voters in Democratic districts would cut defense spending by 22 percent, while voters in Republican areas would cut defense spending by 18 percent.

Still, the change is “statistically insignificant,” Leatherman says. “We’re hearing a lot of rhetoric right now on the Hill and on the campaign trail about this being a wedge issue. But in our survey, the wedge just wasn’t there.”

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