WASHINGTON - As President Barack Obama and other world leaders meet in Italy, a global survey released Thursday reflects wide concern that governments won't meet their budgets in this economic climate - and a universal preference to respond by cutting services rather than raising taxes.
What kinds of cuts? The top choices internationally in the Ipsos/McClatchy poll were reducing aid to foreign countries (57 percent) and cutting the salaries and benefits of government workers (56 percent). People drew a distinction, however, between general foreign aid and disaster relief, which few wanted to reduce.
Cutting military spending was the third most popular choice (43 percent), though less popular in the United States, where only 35 percent favored it.
Least popular internationally were cuts to education and health care (only 4 percent favored each). Only 9 percent of the international respondents favored slashing social welfare, but 20 percent of Americans were willing to clip welfare recipients.
If higher taxes become necessary, the most palatable targets internationally were cigarettes (65 percent), alcohol (53 percent) and junk food (35 percent), all of which were preferred to raising corporate, property, vehicle or sales taxes.
While just 33 percent internationally expressed confidence that their governments could meet their budgets, two nations stood out in contrast: Eighty-three percent were confident that China would stay on budget, and 77 percent said so of India.
Respondents said that the most important indicator of economic recovery would be reduced unemployment rates (63 percent). Increasing the value of a nation's currency and sustained stock-market gains also were seen as key.
These findings were drawn from 23,000 surveys conducted online from April 14 to May 7 as part of a semiannual study that takes weeks to tally.
The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The respondents come from the U.S., Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, China, Japan, Australia, Russia, India, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Great Britain.