Huge majority says compromise needed to keep government up and running–further cuts not wanted, except to military

A new Bloomberg News poll indicates that nearly 8 in 10 Americans believe that legislators should reach a compromise on the federal budget in order to avert a government shutdown.

Clear majorities also said that any budget Congress works out should not include cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, education programs or medical and scientific research. A plurality said the government should avoid cuts to public TV and radio, with 50 percent opposed to such cuts and 46 percent in favor.

The poll also shows that the American people continue to hold a dim understanding of federal budgeting. Nearly three out of four Americans said cutting foreign aid would result in large savings to the federal deficit, and the same number — 72 percent — supported making such cuts. This finding is in line with a November poll in which Americans guessed that foreign aid makes up about 25 percent of the federal budget and that slashing it to 10 percent would be an appropriate deficit-reducing measure. In fact, foreign aid comprises about 1 percent of the budget.

Meanwhile, 59 percent of Americans oppose the Bush tax cuts for households earning more than $250,000, and two-thirds say that the U.S. should pull all troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. The numbers on Iraq and Afghanistan are consistent with previous findings, but earlier polls on the Bush tax cuts have seen varied results, perhaps indicating that most Americans fail to grasp the nature of the cuts in much the same way that they do foreign aid spending.

Other findings included 54-percent support for raising the retirement age for Social Security to 59, 76-percent opposition to Medicare cuts, a strong prioritizing of unemployment — 43 percent, more than for any other answer, said it is the most important issue facing the country, and 56 percent said the government’s top priority should be job creation — and overwhelming support for collective bargaining rights (63 percent) but widespread ignorance of the situation in Wisconsin. A full 50 percent of respondents didn’t know enough about Gov. Scott Walker to form an opinion on him.

The poll was conducted for Bloomberg News by J. Ann Selzer, an Iowa-based pollster whose public opinion research company has previously been hailed for its accuracy, often, for example, predicting election results better than many larger polling centers.

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