FT-Peterson US Economic Monitor

The Financial Times - Peterson Foundation US Economic Monitor is a monthly poll of voters on the state of the economy and the national debt, examining how these factors affect Americans’ perspectives on their personal financial condition. Launched in November 2019, the survey tracks voter sentiment on economic and fiscal issues for the twelve months leading up to the 2020 election.

The online poll is conducted monthly by Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group and Republican polling firm North Star Opinion Research. It includes an oversample to get a closer look at voters in battleground states. Battleground states include Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

January 2020 Results

The third FT-Peterson poll, released on January 9, surveyed an online sample of 1,003 likely 2020 voters across socio-economic groups and across the country from December 16 to December 22. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at 95 percent confidence level.

The survey again shows that six in ten likely 2020 voters believe that management of the national debt is on the wrong track (40% right direction/60% wrong track). Voters remain concerned that the debt could harm economic growth and threaten key programs like Social Security and Medicare. The share of voters who agree that interest on the debt limits resources available for other priorities, such as infrastructure, climate change, education, and defense, increased by 5 points.

Below is a look at a few key questions from the January survey, and you can view the full poll results here.


When it comes to managing the 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?

Right direction - Strongly 17%
Right direction - Somewhat 23%
Wrong track - Somewhat 25%
Wrong track - Strongly 35%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 40%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 60%

Which of the following is the most significant effect of the national debt on the United States economy?

Could threaten programs like Social Security and Medicare 30%
Interest on the debt limits resources available for other priorities (such as infrastructure, climate change, education, defense) 20%
Harms economic growth and the future incomes of U.S. households 16%
Reliance on foreign lenders reduces our global power and influence 11%
Leaves government with less flexibility to respond to economic and other crises 9%
Increases the risk of higher interest rates 6%
Undermines U.S. economic leadership role 5%
Something else 3%

Which of the following do you believe is the biggest obstacle to managing the national debt?

Lack of leadership and political courage by elected officials 31%
Politicians refusing to consider spending cuts 26%
Partisanship in Washington 18%
Lack of long-term planning 11%
Politicians refusing to consider tax increases 9%
Something else 5%

Past Results

The second FT-Peterson poll, released on December 5, surveyed an online sample of 1,010 likely 2020 voters across socio-economic groups and across the country on November 19–24. It has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at 95 percent confidence level.

The December survey shows that by a strong margin, likely 2020 voters believe that management of the national debt is on the wrong track (36% right direction/64% wrong track). The share of battleground state voters who say management of the national debt is “off on the wrong track” is also up by 6 points to 66%. Voters are concerned that the debt could harm economic growth and threaten key programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Below is a look at a few key questions from the December survey, and you can view the full poll results here.


When it comes to managing the 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?

Right direction - Strongly 12%
Right direction - Somewhat 24%
Wrong track - Somewhat 30%
Wrong track - Strongly 35%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 36%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 64%

Which of the following is the most significant effect of the national debt on the United States economy?

Could threaten programs like Social Security and Medicare 31%
Harms economic growth and the future incomes of U.S. households 21%
Interest on the debt limits resources available for other priorities (such as infrastructure, climate change, education, defense) 15%
Reliance on foreign lenders reduces our global power and influence 10%
Leaves government with less flexibility to respond to economic and other crises 8%
Increases the risk of higher interest rates 6%
Undermines U.S. economic leadership role 5%
Something else 3%

Which of the following do you believe is the biggest obstacle to managing the national debt?

Lack of leadership and political courage by elected officials 32%
Politicians refusing to consider spending cuts 23%
Partisanship in Washington 19%
Lack of long-term planning 15%
Politicians refusing to consider tax increases 7%
Something else 4%


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The first poll, released on November 4, shows that while voters are divided on the strength of the economy, they are deeply concerned about our fiscal condition.

By a strong margin, likely 2020 voters believe that management of the national debt is on the wrong track (37% right direction/63% wrong track). Voters are concerned that the debt could harm economic growth and threaten key programs like Social Security and Medicare.

The poll was conducted by Democratic polling firm Global Strategy Group and Republican polling firm North Star Opinion Research on October 21–25. It surveyed an online sample of 1,005 likely 2020 voters across socio-economic groups and across the country, and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points at 95 percent confidence level.

Below is a more detailed look at the November results for a few key questions, and you can read more here.


When it comes to managing the 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?

Right direction - Strongly 13%
Right direction - Somewhat 24%
Wrong track - Somewhat 27%
Wrong track - Strongly 35%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 37%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 63%

Which of the following is the most significant effect of the national debt on the United States economy?

Could threaten programs like Social Security and Medicare 32%
Harms economic growth and the future incomes of U.S. households 20%
Interest on the debt limits resources available for other priorities (such as infrastructure, climate change, education, defense) 16%
Leaves government with less flexibility to respond to economic and other crises 9%
Reliance on foreign lenders reduces our global power and influence 8%
Undermines U.S. economic leadership role 6%
Increases the risk of higher interest rates 6%
Something else 2%

Which of the following do you believe is the biggest obstacle to managing the national debt?

Lack of leadership and political courage by elected officials 28%
Politicians refusing to consider spending cuts 27%
Partisanship in Washington 20%
Lack of long-term planning 14%
Politicians refusing to consider tax increases 7%
Something else 4%

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National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.

FISCAL ISSUES ILLUSTRATED

This series of infographics helps put some of today's most pressing fiscal debates in context.

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