In 1988, for example, 68 percent were willing to boost spending to "halt the rising crime rate" but only 54 percent wanted to spend more on "law enforcement" (3.10, 3.11); 46 percent wanted to spend to "solve the problems" of the big cities, but only 21 percent wanted to "assist" them (3.16, 3.17); and only 23 percent wanted to spend more on "welfare" but fully 68 percent supported increased "assistance to the poor" (3.23, 3.24). It is also clear that responses can be substantially influenced by question form and order: a 1974 survey found a 10 percentage point increase in support for defense cutbacks when the question positioned implied trade- offs with other spending priorities ( Mueller 1977, p. 325; see also Smith, 1987).
Thus while the polls do suggest that in 1988 the public was more willing to cut, say, expenditures for foreign aid than for defense, and more willing to cut defense than education or "assistance to the poor," it would be unwise to lean too heavily on the precise numbers. They are quite changeable by creative question formulators.
AuClaire Philip Arthur. 1984. "Public Attitudes Toward Social Welfare Expenditures". Social Work, 29:139-144.
Chafetz Janet Saltzman, and Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh. 1983. "Growing Conservatism in the United States? An Examination of Trends in Political Opinion between 1972 and 1980". Sociological Perspectives, 26:275-298.
Hansen Susan B. 1983. The Politics of Taxation. New York: Praeger.
Ladd Everett Carll Jr., Marilyn Potter, Linda Basilick, Sally Daniels, and Dana Suszkin. 1979. "The Polls: Taxing and Spending". Public Opinion Quarterly, 43:126-135.
Mueller John E. 1977. "Changes in American Public Attitudes Toward International Involvement". In Ellen P. Stern, ed., The Limits of Military Intervention. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Rasinski Kenneth A. 1988. The Effect of Question Wording on Public Support for Government Spending. NORC: GSS Methodological Report No. 54.
Smith Tom W. 1987. "That Which We Call Welfare by Any Other Name Would Be Sweeter". Public Opinion Quarterly, 51:75-83.