(CN) – Most Americans from both major political parties want the government to boost federal spending on education, veterans’ benefits and infrastructure, but that call for more spending comes during a period of historically low trust in the federal government, the Pew Research Center reported Thursday.
In a survey of 1,503 adults from March 20-25, Pew researchers found that a majority of Americans want to increase spending for a variety of federal programs. In a rare show of bipartisanship, majorities from both parties were closely aligned on wanting more spending on veterans and infrastructure in particular.
For example, 72% of both Democratic and Republican respondents said that the government should increase spending on veterans’ benefits, and there was only a 7-point difference liberals and conservatives on more infrastructure spending – 57% of Republican support it, compared to 64% of Democratic respondents.
Majorities of both parties – 56% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats – also said they wanted to see more federal spending on education.
But respondents were more opposed on programs such as Medicare, environmental protections and health care generally. A 68% majority of Democrats supported increased Medicare spending, whereas only 38% of Republicans said the same.
However, 30% of Republicans said they were in favor of keeping the same amount of spending on Medicare, and just 8% supported cutting Medicare spending.
Similarly, a 29% minority of Republican respondents supported increased spending on environmental protections, but only 14% of supported decreased spending.
A vast majority of Democrats, 73%, said they wanted more spending on environmental protections. Overall, 30% of respondents from both parties supported the current amount of spending on the environment.
On health care generally, only 27% of Republicans said they supported more government spending, compared to 73% of Democrats.
Ideological divides were also apparent when respondents were asked about the ideal size of government. While 47% of overall respondents were in favor of bigger government and an equal number favored small government, a 74% majority of Republican respondents called for smaller government, while 67% of Democrats sought bigger government with more services.
Support for smaller government increased with age and wealth.
Notably, the opinions on government spending come at a time when only 17% of respondents indicted trust in the federal government, a mere 2-point increase since the lowest measured percentage on this question at 15% in 2011.
Data trends indicated that public trust in the federal government has hovered around 20% since the beginning of the Obama administration. That suggests that while the public may want increased spending, they don’t ultimately expect results.
Ironically, the survey also suggested that the public doesn’t trust itself to analyze political decisions. A 59% majority of overall respondents said they have little to no confidence in the public’s political wisdom, whereas only 39% said the opposite.
Some respondents who sought smaller government also sought increased spending on certain programs, though such an antithesis could be explained by the amorphous nature of what big versus small government actually means.
To some, big government could mean increased regulation on personal liberties, but to others it could mean increased spending on a variety of programs within the government’s purview, such as education and defense.
Ultimately, respondents appeared to support increased spending for programs that directly affect their everyday lives – such as education, the soundness of roads and bridges, and support for veterans – but seemed torn on broader questions about the role of government overall. Though respondents were decreasingly confident in the general public’s ability to assess politics wisely, they seemed to trust the federal government itself even less than they trusted themselves.