Americans Remain Troubled by Long-Term Fiscal Outlook

Mar 26, 2014

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

The March 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 47 (100 is Neutral)

Only 29% of Americans Say the Country is Headed in the Right Direction in Addressing our National Debt, with 59% Believing the Country is on the Wrong Track

NEW YORK — The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s March Fiscal Confidence Index shows, once again, that voters are deeply concerned about America’s long-term fiscal challenges. The Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 47 (100 is neutral), indicating voters ongoing concern about addressing our long-term national debt.

Americans’ attitudes about the nation’s fiscal health continue to be highly negative this month. Voters remain convinced that the country is moving in the wrong direction in addressing our long-term debt, with only three in ten (29%) saying the United States is headed in the right direction on the problem and nearly six in ten (59%) believing the country is on the wrong track — including 43% who believe so strongly. Further, fully two-thirds (67%) of Americans say their level of concern about our fiscal challenges has increased in recent years, including nearly one-half (48%) who say it has increased "a lot."

"While some in Washington have turned their attention away from addressing our long-term fiscal health, voters continue to urge action on this critical issue," said Michael A. Peterson, President and COO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "Americans overwhelmingly agree there is more work to be done to put the nation on a more responsible and sustainable path, which will help ensure economic growth and opportunity now and in the future."

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 March 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 47. A score of 100 is neutral. Values below 100 show negative sentiment, while values above 100 show positive sentiment. (February’s value was 46. January’s value was 42.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 43, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 25, 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 47 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 1,004 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between March 17 and March 20, 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 1,004 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between March 17 and March 20, 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 (43)
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?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
Increased a lot 48% 53% 52%
Increased a little 19% 19% 21%
Decreased a little 9% 9% 8%
Decreased a lot 6% 5% 5%
(No change) 16% 12% 13%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 1% 1%
INCREASED (NET) 67% 72% 73%
DECREASED (NET) 15% 15% 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?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
Right direction-Strongly 10% 11% 8%
Right direction-Somewhat 19% 18% 19%
Wrong track-Somewhat 16% 15% 17%
Wrong track-Strongly 43% 48% 48%
(Neither/Mixed) 6% 5% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 3% 3%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 29% 29% 27%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 59% 63% 65%

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?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
Strongly agree 55% 60% 59%
Somewhat agree 24% 21% 22%
Somewhat disagree 10% 8% 8%
Strongly disagree 7% 8% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 4%
AGREE (NET) 79% 80% 81%
DISAGREE (NET) 17% 16% 15%
       
 
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?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
A lot more time 58% 61% 63%
A little more time 22% 20% 21%
A little less time 6% 6% 5%
A lot less time 5% 6% 4%
(The same amount of time) 4% 3% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 3%
MORE TIME (NET) 80% 82% 85%
LESS TIME (NET) 11% 12% 9%

 


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)?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
Much better 10% 10% 8%
Somewhat better 19% 21% 20%
Somewhat worse 23% 22% 28%
Much worse 38% 39% 38%
(No change) 6% 4% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 5% 3%
BETTER (NET) 28% 31% 28%
WORSE (NET) 61% 61% 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?
  Mar 2014 Feb 2014 Jan 2014
Very optimistic 16% 18% 15%
Somewhat optimistic 31% 28% 30%
Somewhat pessimistic 15% 17% 19%
Very pessimistic 30% 31% 32%
(Neither/Mixed) 4% 3% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 47% 46% 44%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 45% 48% 51%

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