With Elections Approaching, Voters Emphasize Fiscal and Economic Issues as Key to the Nation's Future

Oct 1, 2014

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

The September 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 41 (100 is Neutral)

Voters Remain Highly Concerned about the Nation’s Fiscal Future, Urge More Action from Elected Leaders

NEW YORK — The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s September 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. With the mid-term election just weeks away, the Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 41 (100 is neutral), indicating Americans want to see more action from their leaders in Washington as they head to the polls.

Voters overwhelmingly agree that the debt is an issue the President and Congress must focus on — 85% of voters want Washington to spend more time addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges, with eight in ten (80%) calling for the national debt to be among the President and Congress' top three priorities.

"Voters understand that putting our fiscal house in order is vital to securing economic prosperity and growth, and are calling for our leaders to address the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges," said Michael A. Peterson, President and COO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. "As they head to the polls, voters are sending a strong message to their elected leaders about the critical importance of securing our fiscal and economic 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 September 2014 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 41. A score of 100 is neutral. Values below 100 show negative sentiment, while values above 100 show positive sentiment. (August value was 43. July value was 41.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 39, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 21, 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 64, indicating strong pessimism about the direction of long-term fiscal policy in the next few years. The Fiscal Confidence Index of 41 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 1,003 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between September 22 and September 25, 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 1,003 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between September 22 and September 25, 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 (39)
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?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
Increased a lot 49% 51% 53%
Increased a little 16% 19% 19%
Decreased a little 13% 10% 10%
Decreased a lot 6% 5% 5%
(No change) 14% 14% 12%
(Don't Know/Refused) 1% 1% NA
INCREASED (NET) 66% 70% 72%
DECREASED (NET) 19% 15% 16%
 
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?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
Right direction-Strongly 7% 10% 7%
Right direction-Somewhat 16% 14% 15%
Wrong track-Somewhat 19% 15% 15%
Wrong track-Strongly 48% 51% 53%
(Neither/Mixed) 7% 6% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 3%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 23% 24% 22%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 66% 66% 68%

 

PRIORITY (21)
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?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
Strongly agree 57% 56% 58%
Somewhat agree 23% 25% 21%
Somewhat disagree 11% 10% 8%
Strongly disagree 6% 7% 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 5%
AGREE (NET) 80% 81% 79%
DISAGREE (NET) 17% 17% 16%
       
 
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?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
A lot more time 62% 64% 64%
A little more time 23% 19% 19%
A little less time 5% 5% 4%
A lot less time 3% 5% 5%
(The same amount of time) 4% 5% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 85% 83% 83%
LESS TIME (NET) 8% 10% 9%

 

 

EXPECTATIONS (64)
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)?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
Much better 7% 9% 8%
Somewhat better 16% 17% 15%
Somewhat worse 28% 26% 27%
Much worse 39% 39% 42%
(No change) 5% 4% 4%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 6% 4%
BETTER (NET) 23% 25% 23%
WORSE (NET) 67% 65% 69%
 
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?
  Sept 2014 Aug 2014 July 2014
Very optimistic 15% 16% 17%
Somewhat optimistic 29% 30% 28%
Somewhat pessimistic 20% 19% 17%
Very pessimistic 31% 29% 32%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 4% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 44% 46% 44%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 52% 48% 49%

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