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Republicans, Democrats Divided over Federal Spending Priorities

A large pile of US dollars
Sharon McCutcheon

While Americans support federal spending on education, healthcare, and Social Security, there partisan divides on other key issues.

Results from the 2020 Chicago Council Survey, conducted July 2-19, 2020, reveal bipartisan support for increased federal spending on a number of domestic priorities, including education, healthcare, and Social Security. But beyond that, Republicans and Democrats are divided on a range of spending issues, including defense, immigration enforcement, and federal aid to state and local law enforcement.  

Americans' Budget Priorities

  • Majorities of Americans favor expanding federal spending on education (70%), healthcare (69%), public infrastructure (66%), and Social Security (58%).  
  • A plurality of Americans favor cuts to US economic (41%) and military (42%) aid to other nations 
  • Americans are divided over whether to expand, maintain, or cut spending for a range of other programs, including immigration enforcement, federal assistance to state and local law enforcement, the space program, and US defense spending.  
     

Republican Budget Priorities

  • Majorities of Republicans favor expanding federal spending on immigration enforcement (64%), public infrastructure improvements (62%), education (57%), and half favor increased spending on federal aid to state and local law enforcement (50%).  
  • A plurality of Republicans favor increasing spending on Social Security (48%) and healthcare (46%).  
  • On US defense spending, Republicans are divided between wanting to expand (40%) or keep spending the same (44%), with few supporting cuts (8%) 
  • A plurality of Republicans favor cuts to military aid to other nations (47%), and a majority favor cuts to foreign economic aid (60%). 
     

Democrats' Budget Priorities

  • Majorities of Democrats favor increasing federal spending on healthcare (89%), education (85%), Social Security (69%), and improving public infrastructure (69%) 
  • Pluralities of Democrats favor maintaining present federal spending on economic aid to other nations (38%) and the space program (40%) 
  • Pluralities favor cuts to federal aid for state and local law enforcement (40%), defense spending (43%), and immigration enforcement (49%).  
  • Democrats are divided between wanting to maintain (39%) or reduce (36%) US spending on military aid abroad. 

Methodology

This analysis is based on data from the 2020 Chicago Council Survey of the American public on foreign policy, a project of the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. The 2020 Chicago Council Survey was conducted July 2-19, 2020 by IPSOS using their large-scale nationwide online research panel, KnowledgePanel, among a weighted national sample of 2,111 adults, 18 years of age or older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is ±2.3 percentage points, including a design effect of 1.2056. The margin of error is higher for partisan subgroups or for partial-sample items. 

Partisan identification is based on respondents’ answer to a standard partisan self-identification question: “Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent, or what?” 

The 2020 Chicago Council Survey is made possible by the generous support of the Crown family and the Korea Foundation. 

About the Author
Assistant Director, Public Opinion and Foreign Policy
Council expert Craig Kafura
Craig Kafura is the assistant director for public opinion and foreign policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, and a Pacific Forum Young Leader. At the Council, he coordinates work on public opinion and foreign policy and is a regular contributor to the public opinion and foreign policy blog Running Numbers.
Council expert Craig Kafura