As Budget Conference Committee Meets, Americans Maintain Strong Concerns About America's Fiscal Outlook, Call on Policymakers to Act

Nov 27, 2013

Contact: Sarah Stipicevic, Press Secretary
(212) 542-9265 sstipicevic@pgpf.org

Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Confidence Index Remains Negative; 84% of Voters Want Policymakers to ‘Spend More Time’ Addressing National Debt

The November 2013 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK — As the budget conference committee works towards a December 13th deadline, voters maintain a negative outlook on the country’s fiscal picture and call on policymakers to "spend more time" addressing the national debt. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s November Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is neutral), indicating strongly negative public sentiment about America’s fiscal future.

Spanning political perspectives, voters overwhelmingly agree that the President and Congress should spend more time addressing the national debt (84% more time/9% less time), including strong majorities of Democrats (73% more time/16% less time), Independents (87% more time/8% less time), and Republicans (93% more time/3% less time) alike.

Michael A. Peterson, President and COO of the Peterson Foundation, said, "Voters are right to be concerned about our nation’s fiscal future, and they're calling on policymakers to take constructive steps in the right direction. Last month's agreement to avoid default and end the shutdown was just a short-term fix, and Americans want the budget conference committee to seize this opportunity to break the cycle of governing by crisis and put our country on a sustainable fiscal path."

The November Fiscal Confidence Index of 44 represents a slight increase from October’s level, which hit an all-time low of 38 following the government shutdown and debt ceiling standoff. November marks the twelfth consecutive month of strongly negative public attitudes measured by the Fiscal Confidence Index, which launched in December, 2012.

The Fiscal Confidence Index measures public opinion about the national debt by asking six 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 survey results from these three areas are weighted equally and averaged to produce the Fiscal Confidence Index value. The Fiscal Confidence Index, like the Consumer Confidence Index, is indexed on a scale of 0 to 200, with a neutral midpoint of 100. A reading above 100 indicates positive sentiment. A reading below 100 indicates negative sentiment.

Fiscal Confidence Index Key Data Points:

  • The November 2013 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 44. A score of 100 is neutral. Values below 100 show negative sentiment, while values above 100 show positive sentiment. (October’s value was 38. September’s value was 43.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 34, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 28, indicating that Americans want elected leaders to make addressing long-term debt a high priority. The score for EXPECTATIONS about progress on the debt is 74, indicating strong pessimism about the direction of long-term fiscal policy in the next few years. The Fiscal Confidence Index of 44 is the average of these three sub-category scores.
  • For a description of the complete methodology, see the Appendix below.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation commissioned the poll by the Global Strategy Group to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,002 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between November 20 and November 24, 2013. 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.

Detailed poll results can be found online at: www.pgpf.org/what-we-are-doing/education-and-awareness/fiscal-confidence-index

About the Peter G. Peterson Foundation
The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is a non-profit, non-partisan organization established by Pete Peterson — businessman, philanthropist, and former U.S. Secretary of Commerce. The Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key long-term fiscal challenges threatening America's future and to accelerating action on them. To address these challenges successfully, we work to bring Americans together to find and implement sensible, long-term solutions that transcend age, party lines and ideological divides in order to achieve real results. To learn more, please visit www.pgpf.org.

 

APPENDIX: Fiscal Confidence Index Methodology and Questions

  • The Fiscal Confidence Index is 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.
  • The Peter G. Peterson Foundation commissioned the poll by the Global Strategy Group to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,002 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between November 20 and November 24, 2013. 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 questions are as follows:

CONCERN (34)
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?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
Increased a lot 54% 58% 54%
Increased a little 20% 19% 20%
Decreased a little 9% 6% 9%
Decreased a lot 4% 4% 4%
(No change) 12% 11% 12%
(Don't Know/Refused) 1% 2% 1%
INCREASED (NET) 74% 77% 73%
DECREASED (NET) 13% 10% 13%
 
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?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
Right direction-Strongly 9% 7% 11%
Right direction-Somewhat 14% 12% 14%
Wrong track-Somewhat 18% 18% 17%
Wrong track-Strongly 46% 52% 48%
(Neither/Mixed) 7% 8% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 3% 3%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 23% 20% 25%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 64% 70% 65%

 

PRIORITY (24)
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?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
Strongly agree 58% 67% 64%
Somewhat agree 21% 17% 20%
Somewhat disagree 8% 7% 7%
Strongly disagree 9% 6% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 3%
AGREE (NET) 80% 83% 84%
DISAGREE (NET) 17% 13% 14%
       
 
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?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
A lot more time 63% 67% 66%
A little more time 21% 15% 18%
A little less time 6% 6% 6%
A lot less time 4% 4% 5%
(The same amount of time) 3% 4% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 2%
MORE TIME (NET) 84% 83% 84%
LESS TIME (NET) 9% 10% 11%

 

 

EXPECTATIONS (74)
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)?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
Much better 9% 8% 8%
Somewhat better 19% 17% 16%
Somewhat worse 24% 22% 26%
Much worse 38% 43% 40%
(No change) 4% 4% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 6% 5% 7%
BETTER (NET) 28% 25% 25%
WORSE (NET) 62% 65% 66%
 
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?
  Nov 2013 Oct 2013 Sept 2013
Very optimistic 16% 16% 21%
Somewhat optimistic 33% 27% 26%
Somewhat pessimistic 16% 19% 17%
Very pessimistic 28% 32% 28%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 4% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 4%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 49% 43% 47%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 45% 50% 45%

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