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January 19, 2010 Tuesday
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HEADLINE: Harris Poll Survey: Medicare, Crime-fighting, Social Security, Defense – the Most Popular Federal Government Services
The level of support for most major federal government programs, which rose significantly between 2005 and 2008, remains high, according to Harris Interactive.
But there has been a little slippage since last year. Medicare, crime-fighting and prevention and Social Security are the most popular of 13 programs covered in this survey, followed by defense, the national parks, unemployment benefits and federal aid to public schools.
The programs that receive the least public support are foreign aid and immigration and naturalization.
These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,276 adults surveyed online between December 7 and 14, by Harris Interactive.
The main findings of this survey include:
– A 57 percent majority of adults support the Medicare program “a great deal,” and a further 33 percent support it “somewhat,” making a total of 90 percent who support it.
– Other very popular services include crime-fighting and prevention (88 percent support, 47 percent “a great deal”), Social Security (86 percent support and 53 percent “a great deal”); defense (83 percent and 47 percent “a great deal”); the national parks (83 percent support and 41 percent “a great deal”); unemployment benefits (82 percent support and 39 percent “a great deal”) and federal aid to public schools (81 percent support and 43 percent “A great deal”).
– Other programs that are widely supported by large majorities, but where those support them “a great deal” are lower are Medicaid (79 percent support and 38 percent “a great deal”); intelligence services (79 percent support and 33 percent “a great deal”) and environmental protection (74 percent support and 34 percent “a great deal”).
– Two other programs supported by smaller majorities, where fewer people support them “a great deal” are food stamps (64 percent support and 21 percent “a great deal”), and immigration and naturalization (55 percent support and 19 percent “a great deal”).
– The one program supported by less than 50 percent is foreign aid (37 percent support and 6 percent “a great deal”).
There has been a modest slippage overall in support for these federal government services over 12 months: the average level of support (“a great deal” and “somewhat”) has fallen from 78 percent to 76 percent. However, this is still much higher than it was (67 percent) in 2005.
While the level of support for most programs has not fallen significantly, support for three programs has fallen by five or more percentage points:
– Immigration and naturalization (from 64 percent to 55 percent);
– Environmental protection (from, 81 percent to 74 percent);
– National parks (from 88 percent to 83 percent).
Surprisingly perhaps, the proportions of Republicans and Democrats who support most of those programs are not very different, although the Democrat numbers are stronger on all programs except defense and intelligence. Majorities of Republicans support all except two services, food stamps (48 percent) and foreign aid (29 percent). The biggest differences between Republican and Conservative support are for environmental protection (55 percent and 88 percent), and food stamps (48 percent and 78 percent).
It is interesting that while government, and “Washington,” are generally unpopular, 12 of the 13 major federal government services are supported by more than half of all adults, ten are supported by more than 70 percent, and seven are supported by more than 80 percent.
The differences between Democrats who tend to be “pro-government” and Republicans who are more likely to be “anti-government” are not as large as one might have expected. Most Republicans support 11 of these 13 programs.
A possible hypothesis would explain the trends in these numbers since 2005 – that support for government programs increases as the economy goes south, and is starting to fall now as the economy starts to recover.
This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States December 7 and 14, among 2,276 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.
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