Poll: More now say US spends too little on the military

Poll: More now say US spends too little on the military

More people now say the United States spends too little on the military, according to a survey released by Gallup Friday.

Thirty-four percent say the U.S. doesn’t spend enough on defense — the highest level since 2001. Thirty-two percent, by contrast, say the U.S. spends too much.

In the 46 years that Gallup has measured impressions of defense spending, polls have generally found people are more likely to say the government spends too much on the Pentagon.


During the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 1970s, for example, at least half of the public said the U.S. spent too much on defense activities. A majority also held that belief at the end of the Cold War around 1990, following a military buildup under President Reagan.

Gallup’s previous polls have found few people saying the U.S. has spent too little on the military. Between 2000 and 2002, which covered the 9/11 terrorists attacks, however, more people thought the U.S. was not spending enough. The public also held that position in 1981, shortly after Reagan was elected president.

Since 2011, the belief that the U.S. has spent too little on the military has gradually increased among all political affiliations. More than half of Republicans now say the U.S. doesn’t spend enough on defense, as do a third of independents and 17 percent of Democrats. 

Meanwhile, 44 percent said the U.S. military is “not strong enough,” 42 percent said it’s “about right” and 13 percent said it’s “stronger than it needs to be.” 

The poll comes as the U.S. ramps up military operations in the Middle East against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. 

President Obama in his fiscal 2016 budget, which he unveiled in early February, asks Congress to raise sequestration budget ceilings starting in October by increasing defense and non-defense spending. Republicans have expressed more concern about the budget cap on the Pentagon and some key members have floated the idea of eliminating the firewall between defense and non-defense spending in order to provide a bigger Pentagon budget at the expense of domestic programs. 

The survey polled 837 adults from Feb. 8 to Feb. 11 with a 4 point margin of error.