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October 12, 2012 10:00 AM Only 11% of Americans Grasp the Ryan Budget

By Larry Bartels

Under the budget proposed by Paul Ryan, federal spending on everything other than Medicare and Social Security would decline over the next 20 years …

(a) from 22% of GDP to 18.5% of GDP


(b) from 22% of GDP to 14.5% of GDP


(c) from 14.5% of GDP to 11.5% of GDP


(d) from 14.5% of GDP to 7% of GDP.


In this week’s YouGov survey, 34% of Americans chose (b); 23% chose (a); 15% chose©; only 11% chose the correct answer (as scored by the Congressional Budget Office), (d). (The remaining 16% declined to hazard a guess.)

In other words,

(1) most people vastly overestimate how much the federal government is currently spending;

(2) a plurality expect the Ryan budget to reduce federal spending in 20 years to the level it is at right now; and

(3) among the minority who have an accurate sense of current spending, most vastly underestimate the magnitude of the cuts Ryan has proposed.

[Cross-posted at The Monkey Cage]

Larry Bartels is a professor of political science at Vanderbilt University.
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