A recent Yougov/Economist poll is making waves in the blogosphere for its apparent insight on what Americans truly value when it comes to taxation and spending. Question 23’s results show that 62% of Americans favor a decrease in government spending to reduce the deficit compared to 5% who favor raising taxes. Question 26 states:

If government spending is reduced in order to balance the budget, which of the following government programs should receive lower federal funding than they currently do? (Please check all that apply.)

With a whopping 71%, foreign aid tops the list. After a huge dropoff, the environment, housing, agriculture, and mass transit clock in at 27%.

There are dozens of problems with looking too much into these results. Despite that, journalists/bloggers, politicians, and other assorted idiots are interpreting the results to suit their own views. Here’s why looking into them too closely is wrong. Foreign aid makes up a miniscule part of the budget (though most Americans think roughly 20% of the budget goes to it). Most Americans want the biggest chunks of the budget – social security and medicare – untouched. It’s easy to say you want a reduction in government spending. But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, people don’t want to reduce the biggest spending programs.

Everyone wants lower taxes, more entitlement spending, and a lower deficit. But what the poll doesn’t show is the tradeoff Americans are most willing to accept. And that’s all that really matters.

Other interesting insights from the poll:

  • 0% list the War in Iraq as the most important issue to them.
  • 38% strongly oppose the recent healthcare action.
  • 37% don’t know how their congressman voted on the healthcare bill (though 20% listed it as the most important issue).
  • 37% do not follow any major sport.