Voter Concerns: Deficit Fears Beat Out Tax Cuts, Spending

In the ideologically charged battle over how the government handles its money, deficit fears have edged out a desire for spending, according to a new poll: more Americans think the government should reduce the deficit than either (in head-to-head matchups) spend more or cut taxes. The survey was conducted with the Pew Research Center for National Journal and the Society for Human Resources Management. From Peter Bell's story at National Journal:

Fifty-one percent of the public favors reducing the budget deficit; 40 percent supports spending more to help the economy recover. When asked to prioritize deficit reduction and tax cuts, 51 percent favored reducing the budget deficit, versus 41 percent for cutting taxes.

Compared to readings taken last summer and February, it is the first time that significantly more respondents ranked the budget deficit a bigger priority than spending. In February, Americans were evenly split on the question at 47 percent.

"It's not a sea change, but you do see more concern about the deficit than we saw earlier this year," said Carroll Doherty, associate director at the Pew Research Center. "It's abstract, but it's out there."

Independents' opinion on the question mirrors that of the public at large, with 53 percent saying that reducing the budget deficit outweighs spending, and 38 percent saying that spending is more important.

However, it's a reversal for independents since February, when they held increased spending to be more urgent than reducing the deficit, 51 percent to 42 percent.

Republicans are particularly stirred by the deficit, which stood at $1 trillion at the end of June for FY10. Seventy-three percent of Republicans favored reducing the budget deficit over spending more to promote growth.

Fittingly, Republicans are nearly split on reducing the deficit (45%) and cutting taxes (47%)--both of which Republicans have often called for.

See more of the poll's results, with charts, at National Journal.