Survey: Majority of Voters Favor Defense Cuts

A new survey out Monday concludes GOP, Dem voters would slash annual military budget by 18 percent.

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F-35 on the assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas.

Overwhelming numbers of Americans living in both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning congressional districts favor slashing annual military spending, according to a new survey.

Seventy-four percent of Americans living in Republican districts say they favor cutting the Pentagon's budget, while 80 percent residing in Democratic districts answered the same.

The survey was conducted by the Stimson Center, Center for Public Integrity and Program for Public Consultation.

It found that participants hailing from districts that receive the highest levels of defense dollars "were no less willing" than respondents in districts that get the least amount of money to shrink the Pentagon's slice of the federal budget pie.

"Three quarters of respondents in the top 10 percent of beneficiary districts favored reductions, and their average cut slightly exceeded that of the full sample," the organizations said in a statement. "Overall, there was no statistical correlation between the level of defense spending in a district and the level of support for defense cuts."

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The survey suggests Republican voters are much more willing than their congressional delegation to cut the Pentagon's budget. Most Republicans on Capitol Hill are resisting calls from Democrats that the military's budget be on the table, as lawmakers try to beat a Dec. 31 deadline to strike a broader $1.2 trillion debt-reduction package. If they fail, $500 billion in cuts to Pentagon spending over the next decade would kick in the next day.

Defense industry executives and their allies on Capitol Hill claim cuts of that size would force weapons makers to cut 1 million jobs next year alone, though some analysts question those figures.

"The idea that Americans' would want to keep total defense spending up so as to preserve local jobs is not supported by the data," Steven Kull, director of PPC, said in the statement.

Participants in Democratic-leaning districts would make deeper cuts, favoring a 22 percent cut to the Pentagon's annual budget, which will approach $600 billion in coming years, even if the $500 billion holds. Those in GOP districts would trim 15 percent.

The survey revealed Republican and Democratic voters are the farthest apart on missile defense and naval shipbuilding. Those from Democratic districts would trim missile defense by 21 percent, but those from GOP areas would trim it by 9 percent. On ships, Democratic-district residents would reduce that account by $21 billion, while those in Republican districts would pare it by $11 billion.

"Americans' views as expressed in this survey," Stimson's Matthew Leatherman said in the statement, "are a big reason why policy makers-after the election—are likely to tighten the Pentagon's strategy and cut national defense spending more deeply."

John T. Bennett covers national security and foreign policy for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact him at jbennett@usnews.com or follow him on Twitter.

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