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.