Poll: Cut federal spending — but not big-ticket programs

In the federal budget standoff, a majority of U.S. adults are asking lawmakers to pull off the impossible: Cut the overall size of government, but also devote more money to the most popular and expensive programs, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Six in 10 U.S. adults say the government spends too much money. But majorities also favor more funding for infrastructure, health care, and Social Security — the kind of commitments that would make efforts to shrink the government unworkable and politically risky ahead of the 2024 elections.

These findings from a new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research show just how messy the financial tug-of-war between President Joe Biden and House Republicans could be. At stake is the full faith and credit of the federal government, which could default on its obligations unless there is a deal this summer to raise or suspend the limit on the government’s borrowing authority.

The new poll finds U.S. adults are closely divided over whether they want to see a bigger government offering more services or a smaller government offering fewer services. But a clear majority — 60% — say they think government is spending too much altogether. Just 16% say the government is spending too little, while 22% say spending levels are about right.