Top American Spending Priorities: Education, Social Security and Medicare

While many Americans agree that they want to reduce the national budget, finding consensus on where to cut has proven far more difficult. According to a Gallup poll released Wednesday, education, social security and Medicare are the areas where Americans are least likely to want spending reductions. The priorities suggest that the sluggish economic recovery has caused people to value personal welfare over foreign aid and the arts.

In a January poll of about 1,000 adults, about two out of three Americans said they oppose cutting government spending for education and social security. That compares to about half of Americans who oppose reduced arts spending and the 37% who take issue with cutting foreign aid, according to the survey. Democrats and Republicans were most unified on prioritizing social security, education and Medicare, and most divided on their views about spending on defense and on the arts.

Government spending is especially topical: U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has pushed for increasing the national debt ceiling, while the Republican-led House of Representatives aims to cut the deficit.

The poll indicates that years of high unemployment rates have caused Americans to value personal welfare, such as social security and Medicare, when it comes to prioritizing budget cuts. A separate Gallup poll released Tuesday indicated that Americans who are unemployed or underemployed are three times as likely to fall behind on their bills and risk bankruptcy as those who are working.

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