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 September 2016, the Fiscal Confidence Index value is 50 (100 is neutral), indicating voters’ desire to see candidates put forward plans to address our long-term fiscal challenges.

Check back monthly for updates.


Detailed Results

Topline survey results from the Fiscal Confidence Index for September 2016. The FCI value for September is 51.

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 September 19 and September 22, 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 September 2016 scores are: Concern (39), Priority (28), Expectations (86). 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 (39)

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 47%
Increased a little 19%
Decreased a little 10%
Decreased a lot 5%
(No change) 15%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3%
INCREASED (NET) 66%
DECREASED (NET) 15%

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 10%
Right direction - Somewhat 14%
Wrong track - Somewhat 14%
Wrong track - Strongly 49%
(Neither/Mixed) 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 24%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 63%
PRIORITY (28)

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 52%
Somewhat agree 22%
Somewhat disagree 12%
Strongly disagree 9%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5%
AGREE (NET) 75%
DISAGREE (NET) 20%
   

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 59%
A little more time 22%
A little less time 8%
A lot less time 3%
(The same amount of time) 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5%
MORE TIME (NET) 81%
LESS TIME (NET) 11%
EXPECTATIONS (86)

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 7%
Somewhat better 18%
Somewhat worse 25%
Much worse 22%
(No change) 6%
(Don't know/Refused) 22%
BETTER (NET) 25%
WORSE (NET) 47%

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 19%
Somewhat optimistic 27%
Somewhat pessimistic 15%
Very pessimistic 21%
(Neither/Mixed) 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 12%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 46%
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 — As the presidential debate season begins, voters remain deeply concerned about the country’s long-term fiscal health. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s September 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, is 51 (100 is neutral) indicating that the nation’s fiscal outlook remains a top issue for voters. Although Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump acknowledged America’s growing national debt during the first presidential debate, Americans want more discussion of policy solutions to this fundamental fiscal and economic challenge.

Read the Full FCI Press Release for September 2016

For media inquiries please contact Brian Bartlett at (202) 470-5340 or brianbartlett@rational360.com.


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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