R.M. at Democracy in America presents some new polling results on public opinion and military spending:
Most participants were surprised by the level of America’s defence spending when it was held up against the rest of the discretionary budget, historical levels of spending, and the defence spending of other nations. A previous poll showed similar results—support for defence cuts—when participants were informed about the comparable size of the 31 largest categories in the federal discretionary budget.
This is encouraging news. It suggests that there is a very small popular constituency for keeping the military budget at its current level, and there is virtually no support for a larger military budget of the sort that Romney is proposing. Of course, political decisions about the size of the military budget have about as much to do with what the public wants as U.S. foreign policy priorities do, but it’s a very healthy sign that most voters can recognize the excessive and unnecessary spending in the military budget when it is put in its proper context.
At the same time, it’s a little baffling to me that most of the people participating in this survey were surprised by how much the U.S. spends on the military relate to other parts of the budget and other states around the world. I don’t assume that most Americans want as many reductions in U.S. military spending and overseas deployments as I would like, and I don’t assume very many people know the figures for annual military spending, but it still seems as if Americans ought to be aware roughly of the size and expense of the U.S. military after almost eleven years of continuous warfare. One would think that there would be some general knowledge about how much public money is being used to fund the military in a country in which almost everyone automatically expresses “support for the troops.”