Public wants more government spending

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A majority of Americans want government to spend more on certain federal programs ranging from veterans’ assistance to food safety, according to a new survey by a global polling firm.

The survey, which included a random sample of 1,000 respondents nationwide, asked participants whether the government should commit more, less or the same amount of resources and staff to certain federal programs and services: food, drug and medical device safety, border security, veterans’ assistance and nuclear safety. For example, 86 percent of respondents said they wanted government to commit more resources and personnel to veterans’ assistance, while 58 percent favored more nuclear safety resources. The poll, conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for the National Treasury Employees Union, also asked participants about their views on deficit reduction.

Sixty-seven percent said Congress should raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans before cutting funding for public services such as food and drug safety and border security. The respondent pool included Democrats, Independents and Republicans.

When asked whether it was “true” or “false” that federal workers already have contributed $75 billion toward deficit reduction as a result of the two-year civilian pay freeze and increases in pension contributions from new hires, 42 percent of respondents answered “false,” 40 percent answered “true” and 17 percent indicated they did not know one way or the other. Eighty-four percent of respondents believed the government should hire the most qualified candidates to fill jobs.

The survey asked respondents for their political party, age, gender, race and income level. “Republicans are often portrayed as supporting across-the-board spending cuts; the fact is that in every area respondents who affiliated with the GOP supported preserving or increasing the amount of employees and resources providing vital public services,” an NTEU fact sheet stated.

NTEU President Colleen Kelley said Ipsos chose the type of federal programs to ask respondents about based on NTEU membership. The union includes members from across the government, including employees of the Agriculture, Energy and Homeland Security departments. Still, there are many federal programs and services the public relies on, Kelley said, and mentioning some specific ones makes the prospect of spending cuts more real to people. “I think sometimes when the question is asked in a general way, people might not think about how it fits into their life,” she said during a briefing with reporters.

The poll is part of a broader media campaign NTEU has pushed over the last year to raise the profile of federal employees and highlight the importance of their work. Kelley said she wants to debunk some common misconceptions of government workers, including that most of them work in Washington (85 percent of federal employees work outside the Washington metropolitan region) and that government employees have not contributed to deficit reduction. “These myths often are driven by political ideology, and when they take hold, they lead to bad public policy decisions,” she said. Kelley said federal workers are looked at “too often as the piggybank” in deficit reduction discussions, and that there are too many lawmakers who refuse to raise taxes on the wealthy to cut spending.

Ipsos conducted the survey by telephone from Aug. 2 to Aug. 6. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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