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Gallup Poll: Americans Divided on Military Spending

By Melanie Batley   |   Thursday, 27 Feb 2014 11:13 AM

Americans are divided on whether the United States is spending too much or too little on national defense, a new poll has found, even as the Obama administration announced this week it intends to sharply reduce the size of the military in the coming years.

A Gallup poll conducted Feb. 6-9 shows that 37 percent of adults say the nation spends too much on the military while 28 percent say it spends too little. The remaining group says spending is about right.

"Americans' views of the money spent on national defense and the military have held fairly steady in recent years," wrote Frank Newport, the poll's author. "Current views are fairly moderate, with the percentages saying 'too much' and 'too little' falling about midway in the historical ranges."

The survey of 1,023 adults also found that 51 percent of Democrats said the United States is spending too much on defense, compared with just 15 percent who said the United States is spending too little.

By contrast, just 20 percent of Republican surveyed said the defense budget is too large, compared to 49 percent who believe it is too small.

The $496 billion proposed budget released by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday would shrink the size of the U.S. military to pre-World War II levels.

Overall, the Army would drop by roughly 20 percent over the next several years from 540,000 troops to 440,000 troops. The plans would also reduce operations for 11 Navy cruisers, and cut the Air Force's fleet of A-10 attack jets and U-2 spy planes.

The poll noted that U.S. spending on defense has fluctuated substantially in the last 70 years and that public views on spending have varied generally in reaction to the shifts. Specifically, at times when U.S. defense spending was at historically high levels, the public felt spending was too high, and vice versa.

"As the U.S. begins once again to decrease military spending, the public's attitudes are divided. Given these cuts, it would not be unusual if at some point the public once again began to say military spending had dropped too low, potentially making military preparedness a 2016 presidential campaign issue," Newport wrote.

Senate Republicans have blasted the Pentagon's plan, saying it will effectively be dead on arrival when it reaches Congress.

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