Following up on the recent Pew poll of Americans' knowledge, Christopher Ingraham writes at The Washington Post:
Pew asked respondents which program the government spent the most money on: Social Security, transportation, foreign aid, or interest on the national debt. Here's how they responded:
The most popular answer was foreign aid at 33 percent, followed by interest on the debt, at 26 percent. Twenty percent named Social Security, and an additional 4 percent named transportation. For comparison, here's how much money we *actually* spend on those things:
Social Security is the largest item in the list by far, at $773 billion in spending in fiscal year 2012. That's roughly 17 times the annual spending on foreign aid, 8 times the amount spent on transportation, and 3.5 times the amount spent on net interest on the debt.
Responses to this question show how Americans' understanding of their world is deeply influenced by their political leanings and preconceived notions. Foreign aid is consistently rated as the least popular spending category by Americans, even though it accounts for roughly 1 percent of the federal budget. Several years of hysterics surrounding the debt and deficit have also clearly convinced people that debt spending takes up a larger share of the budget than it actually does.