Education spending hot, foreign aid not

U. CHICAGO (US) — Education is the top spending priority of Americans for the tenth time since 1990, according to a new report that finds aid to the poor has replaced health care for the No. 2 position. 

Foreign assistance finished last, as it has every year since 1973.

The spending priorities report is taken from recently released data of the 2010 General Social Survey conducted for 40 years by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.

The GSS is a biennial survey that seeks to monitor and explain trends and constants in attitudes, behaviors, and attributes.

Rounding out the top ten spending priorities were (3) halting crime, (4) Social Security, (5) the environment, (6) dealing with drug addiction, (7) child care, (8) health care, (9) drug rehabilitation, and (10) law enforcement.

The findings have additional significance, researchers say, because they are derived from the first GSS to be conducted since the 2008 economic meltdown.

Despite the poor economy and pinch of taxes for a majority, (in 2010, 52 percent said federal taxes were too high, 46 percent about right, and 2 percent too low) Americans back more spending in about three-quarters of the areas and less spending only in the bottom quarter.

The level of support for more spending declined from 2008 in most but not every category.

For instance, the net percentage of people who felt the U.S. spends too little on law enforcement fell from 44.8 percent in 2008 to 36.4 percent in 2010; the net percentage of those who feel too little is spent on the environment fell from 58.7 percent in 2008 to 48.5 percent in 2010.

The survey includes a sample of 2,044 interviews. The order of spending priorities is determined by subtracting the percentage of respondents saying “too much” is being spent in a category from those saying that “too little” is being spent for that category. The resulting net percentage in each category determines their rank in the list of spending categories.

“Facing soaring deficits and disagreements over the mix of taxes and spending in the budget, it is valuable to consider what the American people think governmental spending priorities should be and how their preferences have changed over the last four decades,” says Tom W. Smith, director of the General Social Survey and principal investigator.

The study is supported by the National Science Foundation.

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