Amid intense debates about where to cut the federal budget, a poll suggests that in some areas, the public wants spending to grow.
New data from the 2010 General Social Survey show a majority of Americans support increased spending on a range of domestic issues, nearly matching the level of support before the economic downturn prompted a sharp increase in the federal deficit.
But following a year of scathing political battles over reforming the nation's health care system, the long-running poll found "health" had dropped out of the public's top two priorities for the first time since 1996.
Overall, 60 percent said the nation currently spends too little on improving and protecting the nation's health, while 19 percent said spending is too high. That is the highest level who think the government is spending too much ever recorded on this issue in the poll's history, which dates back to 1973.
The shift in opinions on health spending is driven broadly by Republicans. Before the reform debate, 67 percent of Republicans said the nation spent too little on health and 11 percent said too much. In the new poll, the gap is far narrower with 40 percent saying spending is too little and 34 percent too high.
The public's top priority for increased spending _ education _ provides a contrast, with views across partisan lines holding steady despite sharper concerns about the deficit. Three-quarters favored higher spending on education.
Majorities also supported higher spending on assistance to the poor (68 percent), protecting the environment (60 percent), halting rising crime (60 percent), Social Security (57 percent), dealing with drug addiction (56 percent) or drug rehabilitation (52 percent), and assistance for childcare (52 percent).
The poll was conducted from mid-March to early-August 2010 by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, and includes interviews with 2,044 randomly selected adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.