Fiscal Outlook Remains Top Concern for Majority of Americans

May 28, 2014

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

The May 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is Neutral)

Eight in Ten Voters (81%) Say that the President and Congress Should Spend More Time Addressing National Debt — Spans Ideological Backgrounds

NEW YORK — The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s May 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, shows that Americans remain highly concerned about the country’s fiscal situation. The Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is neutral), indicating voters ongoing concern about addressing our long-term fiscal outlook.

Fully eight in ten voters (81%) say that the President and Congress should spend more time addressing the issue, including six in ten (62%) who believe they should be spending a lot more time on it. These attitudes are shared by voters across the political spectrum, with clear majorities of Democrats (71% more time), Independents (81% more time), and Republicans (93% more time) believing the issue warrants greater focus from the nation’s leaders.

"It’s clear that voters recognize that our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges remain, and want Washington to deal with it," said Michael A. Peterson, President and COO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "Americans understand that an improved fiscal outlook is central to building economic growth and shared prosperity, now and in the future."

Last week, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation held their 5th annual Fiscal Summit: Our Economic Future, convening leading experts and policymakers to explore the connection between a solid fiscal foundation and economic prosperity. Speakers, including President Bill Clinton and Governor Chris Christie, discussed the fiscal policy choices that impact our nation's ability to compete, innovate and lead in the future. More information about the 2014 Summit, including complete video clips from every speaker, is available at: www.fiscalsummit.org.

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 May 2014 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. (April’s value was 43. March’s value was 47.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 37, 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 70, 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 a poll by the Global Strategy Group and North Star Opinion Research to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,005 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between May 19 and May 22, 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 that 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 1,005 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between May 19 and May 22, 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 (37)
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?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
Increased a lot 51% 52% 48%
Increased a little 19% 19% 19%
Decreased a little 8% 10% 9%
Decreased a lot 6% 5% 6%
(No change) 15% 13% 16%
(Don't Know/Refused) 1% 1% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 70% 71% 67%
DECREASED (NET) 15% 15% 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?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
Right direction-Strongly 8% 9% 10%
Right direction-Somewhat 15% 16% 19%
Wrong track-Somewhat 19% 19% 16%
Wrong track-Strongly 45% 46% 43%
(Neither/Mixed) 9% 6% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 5%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 24% 26% 29%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 64% 65% 59%

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?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
Strongly agree 58% 62% 55%
Somewhat agree 21% 22% 24%
Somewhat disagree 10% 8% 10%
Strongly disagree 8% 6% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 4%
AGREE (NET) 79% 84% 79%
DISAGREE (NET) 17% 13% 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?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
A lot more time 62% 63% 58%
A little more time 19% 20% 22%
A little less time 7% 6% 6%
A lot less time 4% 4% 5%
(The same amount of time) 5% 5% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 81% 83% 80%
LESS TIME (NET) 11% 10% 11%

 


EXPECTATIONS (70)
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)?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
Much better 7% 8% 10%
Somewhat better 18% 17% 19%
Somewhat worse 26% 27% 23%
Much worse 38% 38% 38%
(No change) 6% 5% 6%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 4% 5%
BETTER (NET) 25% 26% 28%
WORSE (NET) 64% 65% 61%
 
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?
  May 2014 Apr 2014 Mar 2014
Very optimistic 18% 17% 16%
Somewhat optimistic 29% 29% 31%
Somewhat pessimistic 17% 19% 15%
Very pessimistic 30% 30% 30%
(Neither/Mixed) 4% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 4%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 47% 46% 47%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 46% 49% 45%

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