Americans Prefer to Cut Spending on Defense Over Education, Poll Finds

If negotiations in Washington to avoid a “fiscal cliff” come down to a choice between cutting spending on defense or education, a majority of Americans would spare the education programs, according to the results of a poll released on Friday.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to the poll said cuts should come from defense spending, compared with 43 percent who supported cutting education programs.

Among federal education programs, a majority of respondents said it was “very important” for Congress to protect from automatic cuts special-education programs for children with disabilities (57 percent) and grants to attend college (53 percent). Funds for universities to conduct scientific research, which higher-education advocates have said would be devastated by the automatic cuts, ranked much lower, at 30 percent.

The poll also found that respondents significantly overestimated the amount of money the federal government spends on education. Respondents said, on average, that 15 percent of the federal budget goes to education, but the correct figure is closer to 2 percent, according to the poll’s sponsors. Still, 43 percent of respondents said the government spends “too little” on education.

The poll was commissioned by the Foundation for Education Investment and the Committee for Education Funding, two advocacy groups. It was conducted online from December 1 to 3, and drew on responses from 1,067 adults.

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