Industry poll: 80 percent want sequester fixed before election

The defense cuts have become a larger part of the campaign season in recent weeks, as defense contractors have threatened mass layoff notices and President Obama and Mitt Romney have attacked one another over them.

Neither party, however, has put forth a plan that could attract bipartisan support and stave off the cuts, as Democrats demand Republicans put revenues on the table and Republicans say that mandatory spending should be addressed instead.

AIA made clear Tuesday that it intends to use the survey to press for a deal to stave off sequestration, as President and CEO Marion Blakey said in a statement:

“We've always known that sequestration is bad policy. Now we know it’s bad politics as well,” House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) followed up with a statement of his own shortly after the poll was released.

So does the poll indicate that voters want to stop the cuts to defense?

There have been previous surveys showing the opposite. A joint survey from the Stimson Center, Center for Public Integrity and Program for Public Consultation released in the spring found that respondents wanted to cut the Pentagon budget an additional $103 billion, after they were provided arguments supporting and opposing further cuts to the Pentagon budget.

The difference lies in the way the argument is framed. In the joint study, respondents were shown charts that depicted how large defense is compared to other agencies in the discretionary budget, and another that showed defense spending is still at a higher average than during the Cold War.

The AIA survey released Tuesday, meanwhile, set up the sequestration argument before asking respondents if they agreed or disagreed it should be halted, according to a copy of the questions provided to The Hill.

The survey firsts asks respondents a question — generated by the AIA — about how aware they were on sequestration by stating:

“The Federal budget - including both defense and non-defense programs - is facing across-the-board cuts of approximately 10% in January 2013, including over $500 billion to Defense, if lawmakers fail to enact a plan before then to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. These budget cuts are referred to as ‘sequestration.’ These proposed cuts are in addition to a previously agreed-to cut of almost $1 trillion, including $487 billion to Defense that is already taking place, and it is a result of the failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach an agreement on a series of tax and entitlement reforms.”

Following that question, respondents were asked: “How much do you agree or disagree that leaders in Washington, D.C., should find an alternative to sequestration before the November elections take place?” That question had 80 percent of respondents saying they strongly or somewhat agreed.

It’s likely that more than 80 percent of Congress would also agree that they should find an alternative to sequestration. But the two parties are too divided on the issues of taxes and entitlements that defense has been swept up into the larger debate.