Amid Worsening Deficit Outlook, Americans Increasingly Concerned About Nation’s Future

Aug 27, 2019

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The August 2019 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 52 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (August 27, 2019) — As the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office raises its deficit estimates for the next 10 years, voters across party lines are increasingly concerned about America’s deteriorating fiscal outlook, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s monthly Fiscal Confidence Index. The August Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 52 (100 is neutral), indicating that voters understand that the nation is on a damaging fiscal and economic path, and want their leaders to start managing the debt to build a better future.

The national debt remains a top priority for most Americans, with three in four (75%) agreeing that addressing the debt should be among the President's and Congress’s top three priorities. This sentiment is consistent across party lines (Democrats 72% / independents 74% / Republicans 78%). In addition, more than eight in 10 Americans (82%) want the President and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt, including substantial majorities of both parties.

“Americans are rightly concerned about the nation’s fiscal outlook, and the latest CBO projections confirm the harmful impact of the recent budget deal, which is projected to add another $1.7 trillion to our already high and rising debt,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Voters across party lines want fiscal leadership from their elected officials, in order to better manage the national debt and put America on a stronger economic course for 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 August 2019 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 52. (The July value was 52, and the June value was 53.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 54, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 26, 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 76. 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 August 19, 2019 and August 22, 2019. 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?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
Increased a lot 36% 41% 37%
Increased a little 24% 21% 24%
Decreased a little 12% 11% 10%
Decreased a lot 8% 6% 8%
(No change) 17% 19% 20%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 60% 62% 60%
DECREASED (NET) 20% 17% 18%
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?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
Right direction-Strongly 16% 15% 16%
Right direction-Somewhat 13% 18% 16%
Wrong track-Somewhat 17% 16% 17%
Wrong track-Strongly 41% 40% 39%
(Neither/Mixed) 8% 6% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 6%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 58% 56% 56%
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?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
Strongly agree 44% 42% 44%
Somewhat agree 31% 32% 28%
Somewhat disagree 12% 13% 13%
Strongly disagree 7% 8% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 5% 7%
AGREE (NET) 75% 74% 73%
DISAGREE (NET) 19% 20% 20%
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?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
A lot more time 52% 58% 58%
A little more time 30% 24% 22%
A little less time 5% 3% 6%
A lot less time 3% 2% 2%
(The same amount of time) 6% 7% 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 6% 5%
MORE TIME (NET) 82% 83% 80%
LESS TIME (NET) 8% 5% 8%
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)?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
Much better 10% 11% 10%
Somewhat better 15% 16% 15%
Somewhat worse 28% 26% 28%
Much worse 33% 33% 33%
(No change) 6% 5% 6%
(Don't know/Refused) 8% 9% 8%
BETTER (NET) 25% 27% 25%
WORSE (NET) 61% 59% 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?
August 2019 July 2019 June 2019
Very optimistic 17% 21% 19%
Somewhat optimistic 29% 28% 29%
Somewhat pessimistic 21% 19% 19%
Very pessimistic 22% 23% 24%
(Neither/Mixed) 6% 3% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 4%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 46% 50% 48%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 43% 42% 43%

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