Introduction

In 2012, the Peterson Foundation launched the Fiscal Confidence Index to help policymakers, members of the media, and the American public gauge public opinion on the nation’s fiscal and economic challenges.

The Fiscal Confidence Index is an important indicator of the American public’s views about our fiscal and economic condition and the progress elected leaders are making in addressing it. Since its inception, the Fiscal Confidence Index has consistently shown that Americans hold deep concerns about the level of our long-term debt, and they urge policymakers to make addressing our fiscal and economic future a top priority.

The Fiscal Confidence Index, released monthly, is modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index and measures public opinion about the national debt and the economy by asking questions in three key areas:

  • CONCERN: Level of concern and views about the direction of the national debt.
  • PRIORITY: How high a priority addressing the debt should be for elected leaders.
  • EXPECTATIONS: Expectations about whether the debt situation will get better or worse in the next few years.

The individual scores in these three areas are averaged to produce the Fiscal Confidence Index value. For January 2016, the Fiscal Confidence Index value is 53 (100 is neutral), indicating voters’ desire to see candidates offer a plan to put the nation on a sustainable long-term path.

Check back monthly for updates.


Detailed Results

Topline survey results from the Fiscal Confidence Index for January 2016. The FCI value for January is 53.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation commissioned a poll by the Global Strategy Group and North Star Opinion Research to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,007 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between January 18 and January 21, 2016. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%. The poll examined voters’ opinions on the national debt, political leadership, and America’s fiscal and economic health.

The Fiscal Confidence Index value is derived from six questions in three categories: Concern, Priority, and Expectations. The January 2016 scores are: Concern (46), Priority (25), Expectations (89). For the complete methodology used to determine the Fiscal Confidence Index value, click here. For full results, including demographic information, download the PDF below:


CONCERN (46)

Thinking about our national debt over the last few years, would you say your level of concern has increased or decreased?

  • Is that a lot or just a little?
Increased a lot 46%
Increased a little 19%
Decreased a little 10%
Decreased a lot 7%
(No change) 17%
(Don't Know/Refused) 1%
INCREASED (NET) 65%
DECREASED (NET) 17%

When it comes to addressing our national debt, would you say things in the United States are heading in the right direction or do you think things are off on the wrong track?

  • Do you feel that way strongly or just somewhat?
Right direction-Strongly 12%
Right direction-Somewhat 17%
Wrong track-Somewhat 14%
Wrong track-Strongly 44%
(Neither/Mixed) 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 29%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 58%
PRIORITY (25)

Some people say that addressing the national debt should be among the President and Congress' top 3 priorities. Do you agree or disagree?

  • Do you feel that way strongly or just somewhat?
Strongly agree 54%
Somewhat agree 24%
Somewhat disagree 10%
Strongly disagree 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4%
AGREE (NET) 78%
DISAGREE (NET) 18%
   

And when it comes to our national debt, do you think it is an issue that the President and Congress should spend more time addressing or less time addressing?

  • Would you say a lot (more or less) time or just a little?
A lot more time 57%
A little more time 22%
A little less time 6%
A lot less time 3%
(The same amount of time) 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 80%
LESS TIME (NET) 9%
EXPECTATIONS (89)

And thinking about our national debt over the next few years, do you expect the problem to get better or worse?

  • Is that much (better or worse) or just somewhat (better or worse)?
Much better 9%
Somewhat better 19%
Somewhat worse 26%
Much worse 26%
(No change) 7%
(Don't know/Refused) 13%
BETTER (NET) 28%
WORSE (NET) 52%

And when it comes to our national debt, are you optimistic or pessimistic that the United States will be able to make progress on our national debt over the next few years?

  • Would you say you are very (optimistic or pessimistic) or just somewhat?
Very optimistic 21%
Somewhat optimistic 32%
Somewhat pessimistic 17%
Very pessimistic 19%
(Neither/Mixed) 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 52%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 36%

Survey Questions

The six questions, by category, used in surveying for the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Confidence Index. For full methodology, click here.

  • CATEGORY: CONCERN

    Thinking about our national debt over the last few years, would you say your level of concern has increased or decreased? Is that a lot or just a little?

    When it comes to addressing our national debt, would you say things in the United States are heading in the right direction or do you think things are off on the wrong track?

    Do you feel that way strongly or just somewhat?

  • CATEGORY: PRIORITY

    Some people say that addressing the national debt should be among the President and Congress' top 3 priorities. Do you agree or disagree?

    Do you feel that way strongly or just somewhat?

    And when it comes to our national debt, do you think it is an issue that the President and Congress should spend more time addressing or less time addressing?

    Would you say a lot (more or less) time or just a little?

  • CATEGORY: EXPECTATIONS

    And thinking about our national debt over the next few years, do you expect the problem to get better or worse?

    Is that much (better or worse) or just somewhat (better or worse)?

    And when it comes to our national debt, are you optimistic or pessimistic that the United States will be able to make progress on our national debt over the next few years?

    Would you say you are very (optimistic or pessimistic) or just somewhat?


For Press

NEW YORK — The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s January Fiscal Confidence Index, a monthly measure of public attitudes about the nation’s long-term debt and the efforts elected leaders are making to address America’s fiscal challenges, shows that a significant majority of Americans remain concerned about the nation’s fiscal future. The Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 53 (100 is neutral), indicating voters’ desire to see candidates offer a plan to put the nation on a sustainable long-term path.

Read the Full FCI Press Release for January 2016

For media inquiries please contact Sarah Higgins, Press Secretary, at (212) 542-9265 or shiggins@pgpf.org.

 


Methodology

The Fiscal Confidence Index will be released monthly by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The Fiscal Confidence Index value is based on six questions in three categories.

As is done with the Consumer Confidence Index, the first step in calculating the Fiscal Confidence Index is determining the "Relative Value" for each question. This calculation is made by taking the positive response for each question and dividing it by the sum of the positive and negative responses. Each question was asked on a four-point scale, and answers were weighted according to intensity, with the strongest responses counting twice as much as the middle responses ("much" better or worse answers count twice as heavily as "somewhat" better or worse answers).

The scores for the Concern, Priority, and Expectations categories are determined by averaging the scores derived from the two questions in each category.

The Fiscal Confidence Index value is converted from the Relative Value to place it on a scale on which 100 indicates equal positive and negative sentiment, while values below 100 indicate negative sentiment and values above 100 indicate positive sentiment.

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