As Congress lifts the national debt ceiling, increasing the budget deficit, a unique survey has found that bipartisan majorities are ready to cut the deficit by $376 billion, primarily by raising taxes on high incomes. The survey participants—who were shown the current deficit, and given the opportunity to propose changes in spending and taxes—proposed reversing the 2017 tax cuts for incomes over $200,000, treating capital gains and dividends as ordinary income for those with incomes over $200,000, and applying an extra tax of 4% on income over $5 million.

In the interactive online survey, conducted by the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation (PPC), a sample of 2,403 registered voters were presented the discretionary budget (broken into 34 line items) and the budget deficit for 2019. They were given the opportunity to modify spending levels up or down, getting immediate feedback on the impact of their changes on the deficit.

While Congress is headed for increasing the defense budget, in the survey a majority cut it $51 billion (Republicans $14 billion, Democrats $101 billion). Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats cut subsidies to agricultural corporations by $7 billion and spending on federal enforcement of federal laws by $2 billion. While majorities of Republicans and Democrats made small increases to some programs, this did not extend to the majority of the whole sample. Overall, the majority made net reductions in spending of $70 billion. Republicans cut $52 billion, Democrats $111 billion, and converged on cuts of $27 billion.


A policymaking simulation is an online process that puts citizens in the shoes of elected officials by simulating the process they go through in making policy decisions. Each simulation introduces a broader policy topic and then presents a series of modules that address a specific policy option that is currently under consideration in the current discourse.

For each module, respondents:

  1. receive a short briefing on a policy issue and the option or options for addressing it;
  2. evaluate arguments for and against the policy options; and
  3. finally, make their recommendation for what their elected officials should do.

Unlike most PPC consultations, the budget exercise was also interactive allowing respondents to indicate their preferences while a floating box indicated how their preferences affected the deficit, as presented to the respondents in the briefing and when it differed from the Administration's recommendations.

At the end of the survey, respondents were permitted to make any changes to those preferences, if they chose to do so. The dataset reflects the final preferences of the respondent. Less than 5% of respondents made a change to their answers.