Post-Election Poll: Voters Want Leaders to Get to Work on Improving Nation’s Fiscal Future

Nov 27, 2018

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The November 2018 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 56 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (November 27, 2018) — Following the 2018 midterm elections, a vast majority of voters across party lines want President Donald Trump and the new Congress to focus on America’s fiscal outlook, according to the Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Confidence Index, a monthly measure of public attitudes about the national debt and the efforts by elected leaders to address America’s fiscal challenges. The November Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 56 (100 is neutral).

Following a hard-fought election, Americans are split in their optimism about the ability of leaders in Washington to address the record national debt (48% optimistic/44% pessimistic). However, voters are united in their belief that the nation’s leaders need to work together on a solution: an overwhelming majority (80%) say that the national debt is a problem the President and Congress should spend more time on, including large majorities of Democrats (81%), independent voters (83%), and Republicans (76%).

“With the national debt racing toward $22 trillion, and deficits growing as far as the eye can see, the vast majority of American voters want their leaders to put our nation’s fiscal house in order,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. “Debt impacts every issue that Americans care about — from the economy and wages, to healthcare and education, to national defense and infrastructure. Now, with a divided government, our leaders have a critically important opportunity and requirement to come together on a bipartisan path forward.”

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 2018 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 56. (The October value was 62, and the September value was 61.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 64, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 32, 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 89. The Fiscal Confidence Index 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 this poll by the Global Strategy Group and North Star Opinion Research to survey public opinion on the national debt. The nationwide poll included 1,001 U.S. registered voters, surveyed by telephone between November 15, 2018 and November 20, 2018. 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:

About the Peter G. Peterson Foundation

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of key 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

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 questions are as follows:


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?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
Increased a lot 38% 37% 41%
Increased a little 24% 24% 18%
Decreased a little 15% 15% 15%
Decreased a lot 6% 9% 8%
(No change) 14% 12% 14%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 4%
INCREASED (NET) 62% 61% 58%
DECREASED (NET) 21% 23% 23%
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?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
Right direction-Strongly 14% 20% 19%
Right direction-Somewhat 19% 18% 17%
Wrong track-Somewhat 20% 16% 15%
Wrong track-Strongly 36% 36% 38%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 7% 6% 6%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 56% 53% 54%
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?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
Strongly agree 43% 41% 43%
Somewhat agree 27% 32% 24%
Somewhat disagree 15% 15% 16%
Strongly disagree 9% 8% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 4% 6%
AGREE (NET) 70% 73% 68%
DISAGREE (NET) 24% 23% 26%
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?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
A lot more time 51% 52% 53%
A little more time 29% 28% 22%
A little less time 7% 7% 8%
A lot less time 4% 4% 6%
(The same amount of time) 3% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 6% 6%
MORE TIME (NET) 80% 80% 75%
LESS TIME (NET) 11% 11% 14%
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)?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
Much better 12% 12% 13%
Somewhat better 17% 20% 17%
Somewhat worse 31% 26% 26%
Much worse 32% 32% 35%
(No change) 3% 3% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 6% 7% 6%
BETTER (NET) 29% 33% 30%
WORSE (NET) 63% 57% 60%
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?
November 2018 October 2018 September 2018
Very optimistic 18% 20% 21%
Somewhat optimistic 30% 33% 29%
Somewhat pessimistic 20% 18% 17%
Very pessimistic 25% 21% 25%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 5% 5%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 48% 54% 50%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 44% 39% 42%

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