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What federal spending should be axed? US public has its own ideas.

In recent opinion polls, the US public gives Congress a starting place to look for cuts in federal spending. Energy industries and 'earmarks' top the list, but there's more.

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As Republicans and Democrats in Washington bargain and bait each other over how to cut federal spending, they're both trying to please a key bystander: the US voting public.

So, what does the public want to see?

Some new surveys of public opinion suggest that American voters are more engaged in the debate, and perhaps readier to embrace tough choices, than they have been in many years.

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That's not to say that cuts in, say, Social Security benefits would go down easily. Americans are even reluctant to embrace many spending cuts that would have little direct impact on their own pocketbooks – like the idea of eliminating public funds for National Public Radio (NPR).

But since the recession, the public has become more concerned about the economic threat posed by chronic federal deficits. Although they share politicians' penchant for wishful thinking, ordinary Americans appear ready to accept at least a degree of shared sacrifice to resolve fiscal problems.

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