As New Year Begins, Voters Remain Deeply Concerned about the Nation’s Long Term Fiscal Health

Jan 29, 2014

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

The January 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 42 (100 is Neutral); Continuing Negative Fiscal Outlook from 2013

85% of Voters Want the President and Congress to Spend More Time Addressing Our National Debt, a Five-point Increase Since December (80%)

NEW YORK — The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s first Fiscal Confidence Index for 2014 shows that despite the recent budget agreement, voters remain deeply concerned about the nation’s long-term fiscal outlook. The Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 42 (100 is neutral), indicating voters’ continuing negative outlook as we enter a new year.

The poll found that an overwhelming majority of voters (85%) want the President and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt. However, for the first time since the aftermath of the government shutdown in October, fully one-half of voters (51%) say they are pessimistic that the country will be able to make progress on these issues over the next few years.

“Voters overwhelmingly agree that when it comes to the nation's long-term fiscal health, our work is not done. Uncertainty around our long-term fiscal outlook negatively impacts our economy, and Americans are urging their leaders to remain focused on finding solutions,” said Michael A. Peterson, President and COO of the Peter. G. Peterson Foundation.

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 January 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 42. A score of 100 is neutral. Values below 100 show negative sentiment, while values above 100 show positive sentiment. (December value was 43. November’s value was 44.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 36, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 22, 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 67, indicating strong pessimism about the direction of long-term fiscal policy in the next few years. The Fiscal Confidence Index of 42 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 and North Star Opinion Research to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,000 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between January 20 and January 23, 2014. 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 and North Star Opinion Research to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,000 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between January 20 and January 24, 2014. 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 (36)
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?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
Increased a lot 52% 54% 54%
Increased a little 21% 20% 20%
Decreased a little 8% 8% 9%
Decreased a lot 5% 3% 4%
(No change) 13% 13% 12%
(Don't Know/Refused) 1% 1% 1%
INCREASED (NET) 73% 75% 74%
DECREASED (NET) 13% 11% 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?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
Right direction-Strongly 8% 9% 9%
Right direction-Somewhat 19% 16% 14%
Wrong track-Somewhat 17% 18% 18%
Wrong track-Strongly 48% 48% 46%
(Neither/Mixed) 6% 5% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 5% 5%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 27% 25% 23%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 65% 66% 64%

PRIORITY (22)
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?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
Strongly agree 59% 62% 58%
Somewhat agree 22% 20% 21%
Somewhat disagree 8% 8% 8%
Strongly disagree 7% 7% 9%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 4%
AGREE (NET) 81% 83% 80%
DISAGREE (NET) 15% 15% 17%
       
 
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?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
A lot more time 63% 58% 63%
A little more time 21% 21% 21%
A little less time 5% 7% 6%
A lot less time 4% 5% 4%
(The same amount of time) 3% 5% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 85% 80% 84%
LESS TIME (NET) 9% 12% 9%

 


EXPECTATIONS (67)
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)?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
Much better 8% 9% 9%
Somewhat better 20% 22% 19%
Somewhat worse 28% 22% 24%
Much worse 38% 39% 38%
(No change) 3% 4% 4%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 5% 6%
BETTER (NET) 28% 31% 28%
WORSE (NET) 66% 61% 62%
 
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?
  Jan 2014 Dec 2013 Nov 2013
Very optimistic 15% 18% 16%
Somewhat optimistic 30% 27% 33%
Somewhat pessimistic 19% 17% 16%
Very pessimistic 32% 32% 28%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 3% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 4%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 44% 45% 49%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 51% 48% 45%

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