As discussed in chapter 1, spending on defense is one form of international engagement that policymakers assume is not affected by the trend toward disengagement. The dominant view among policy practitioners interviewed was that the public supports the current level of defense spending, with less than a quarter saying that the public favored reductions. Even if the president and Congress were to decide jointly to make significant cuts in defense spending, only a minority of those interviewed thought the public would be supportive. The reasons policy practitioners gave for public support for current levels of defense spending were fears of homeland vulnerability, concern for preserving defense jobs, and support for maintaining the dominant U.S. role in the world. Desire for burden sharing through multilateral arrangements was virtually never mentioned.
Polls show a complex picture of public attitudes. Depending on how the question is framed, attitudes about defense spending can range from comfort with the status quo to a desire for deep cuts. Each framework appears to elicit different values.
When poll questions refer to the status quo, a majority expresses support for the current level of spending, consistent with public support for a strong defense, a global military presence, and fulfillment of U.S. security commitments. However, polls that probe further by asking respondents to specify