Sunday, November 13, 2011

Support for a Balanced Budget Amendment

Proposals for a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced budget seem to be coming back.  This idea is always popular with the general public, but I was curious to see if there were any changes in its popularity.  I selected straight questions like "Would you favor or oppose a constitutional amendment that would require Congress to balance the federal budget each year."  I excluded any question that included qualifications, extra provisions, or points that could be regarded as arguments on either side.  The figure shows the ratio of favorable to unfavorable responses (the percent saying that they didn't know varied from survey to survey, and sometimes wasn't reported).

The ratio ranged slightly over 1:1 (a little over half of those with opinions in favor) to almost 9:1 (90% in favor).The most recent ratios are low by historical standards, raising hope that the idea is slowly going out of fashion.  But the most striking change was a decline in support for a balanced budget amendment between about 1979 and 1985, followed by a rebound in 1986 and 1987.  The changes don't have any obvious relationship to economic conditions or the party in power. 

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