Do American’s Know Anthing About the Budget?

From Matthew Yglesias is a discussion about popular opinion on where the government spends money.

The errors about foreign aid are famous, though it’s interesting that a solid 64 percent of people are in the ballpark on defense.

It’s based on this Zogby poll and some other discussions at reason and Derek Thompson at the Atlantic.

Americans are famous for overestimating our international aid. One study found that the average American estimates that a quarter of the budget — more than Social Security, or Defense — goes to aid abroad.

Here’s the original data plus an added column “Estimate” that gives the weighted average (the percent of people times the size of the estimate with “Not Sure” ignored):
And for those of you more visually oriented, here’s the actual size of the different budget areas:
And now let’s see where the differences are greatest. The blue line is the actual values:


So money spent on Assistance to low-income families, Medicare & Medicaid, and Social Security match expectations. People think we spend more than we do on everything else. Of course, International Aid is still a ridiculous difference.

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