WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats remain deeply divided about how much the country should spend on the military, but a growing number of all Americans say the Pentagon budget is too small.
Fifty-six percent of all Republicans polled by Gallup said the United States spends "too little" on its military, compared with 17 percent of Democrats. Independents fell in the middle, at 33 percent.
Notably, the nonpartisan polling firm saidnoted 34 percent of all those surveyed answered "too little," the highest amount since 2001. Thirty-two percent believe the US is spending too much on the Defense Department.
"For the past decade, Americans have been more likely to say the US government spends too much on defense rather than too little, but today, a slim margin separates these views," Gallup said in a summary of a nationwide poll, conducted Feb. 8-11.
Gallup also found a significant swing in the poll from one year ago. At that time, there was a nine-point gap that favored the "too much" camp.
In a potential boost for congressional military hawks and the US defense sector in their quest to convince their colleagues to raise Pentagon spending for 2016, Gallup found an uptick among members of all three political parties who favor more DoD spending.
One year ago, 49 percent of all Republicans said the country spends "too little" on defense, with 26 percent of Democrats and 15 percent of independents reporting the same.
The firm also asked those surveyed to assess the strength of the US military.
"Not strong enough" was the answer for 44 percent, with 42 percent replying "about right" and 13 percent answering "stronger than it needs to be."
"Those views have changed significantly from 2012, when Gallup last asked the question," the firm said in its summary. "At that time, a much smaller 32 percent said US national defense was not strong enough, with 54 percent believing it was about right."
The White House earlier this week submitted a $534.3 billion base budget request that would breach defense spending caps set by the 2011 Budget Control Act by nearly $25 billion.
Congressional hawks, led by Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., want to raise those caps, or pass the kind of so-far-elusive fiscal plan that would eliminate them.
However, there has been no push by House and Senate GOP leaders — nor their hand-picked Budget Committee chairmen — to do so.