Poll: Huge Majority of Americans Have Seen No Impact From Sequester

United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll finds only 23 percent of people have seen an effect from the spending cuts.

A protester wears an anit-furlough armband at a demonstration against sequestration in front of the US Department of Labor in Washington, DC, on March 20, 2013.
National Journal
Scott Bland
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Scott Bland
Oct. 9, 2013, 6:12 p.m.

A large ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­ans—nearly three in four—say they have not no­ticed ef­fects of this year’s across-the-board spend­ing cuts.

Ac­cord­ing to the latest United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll, only 23 per­cent of re­spond­ents have “seen any im­pact of these cuts” in their com­munit­ies or on them per­son­ally, while 74 per­cent said they had seen no im­pact from se­quest­ra­tion.

The res­ults high­light a dif­fi­cult is­sue for Demo­crats and the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion in the broad fight over gov­ern­ment spend­ing: The budget cuts they de­cry not only haven’t ex­as­per­ated the pub­lic, they’ve gone largely un­noticed. That means both parties’ polit­ic­al at­tacks over the se­quester have less sa­li­ence.

The poll res­ults also are not­able as Wash­ing­ton nav­ig­ates the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment shut­down and pos­sible breach of the debt ceil­ing—two par­al­lel crises car­ry­ing the po­ten­tial of eco­nom­ic harm. While Pres­id­ent Obama has stressed Sen­ate Demo­crats’ ac­qui­es­cence to what he called “Re­pub­lic­an spend­ing levels,” con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans are ad­voc­at­ing an­oth­er round of re­duc­tions in ex­change for a debt-lim­it in­crease. Yet, ab­sent re­duc­tions in So­cial Se­cur­ity or Medi­care spend­ing, it ap­pears most Amer­ic­ans do not ex­per­i­ence—or do not think they are ex­per­i­en­cing—the ef­fect of lower gov­ern­ment spend­ing.

Of the people who said they had no­ticed some se­quester im­pact, the most com­mon ef­fect cited was “fur­loughs for fed­er­al work­ers you know.” Fifty-eight per­cent of that sub­set said they had no­ticed fur­loughs, while 54 per­cent said they had seen “cuts in gov­ern­ment ser­vices you use,” and 45 per­cent said they them­selves had seen “cuts in your paycheck or paychecks re­ceived by your fam­ily.”


Col­lege gradu­ates were most likely to know a fur­loughed fed­er­al work­er, with three-quar­ters of those who said they had no­ticed the se­quester cit­ing that par­tic­u­lar ef­fect. Re­spond­ents mak­ing less than $50,000 a year, mean­while, were most likely among that sub­set to have no­ticed cuts to gov­ern­ment ser­vices they use or to their fam­il­ies’ paychecks. Non­whites were also more likely than oth­er re­spond­ents to say that they had per­son­ally felt cuts in paychecks or ser­vices.

But again, re­l­at­ively few re­spond­ents in each of those sub­groups have even no­ticed se­quest­ra­tion to be­gin with. Just 21 per­cent of non­whites, 23 per­cent of people earn­ing less than $50,000 a year, and 25 per­cent of col­lege gradu­ates said they had no­ticed the cuts.

The United Tech­no­lo­gies/Na­tion­al Journ­al Con­gres­sion­al Con­nec­tion Poll was con­duc­ted Oct. 3-6 by Prin­ceton Sur­vey Re­search As­so­ci­ates In­ter­na­tion­al. The poll sur­veyed 1,000 adults, half via cell phone, and car­ries a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.7 per­cent­age points.

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