As Monthly Budget Deficit Hits All-Time High During Coronavirus Crisis, Voters Call Attention to Fiscal Outlook as Key Concern for Nation

Jul 28, 2020

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

The July 2020 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 46 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (July 28, 2020) — With the federal budget deficit reaching a record high for a single month of $864 billion in June, voters are voicing concern about our fiscal outlook, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s monthly Fiscal Confidence Index. The July Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 46 (100 is neutral), showing that Americans are also concerned with fiscal issues, while the national health and economic crisis continues to be the top national policy priority.

Four in five voters (80%) say their level of concern about the national debt has increased over the past few years, up from 78% last month. Moreover, 75% of voters now believe the national debt should be among the president and Congress’s top three priorities, up from 70% in June. That increase cuts across party lines, and includes 77% of younger voters (18 to 34 years old), up from 69% last month.

Additionally, 81% of Americans believe that the president and Congress should be spending more time addressing the national debt, including increases among registered Democrats (81%, from 75% in June) and independents (79%, from 71% in June).

“As lawmakers rightly continue to pursue policies that help our nation respond to the immediate health and economic crisis, voters are also showing increased concern about our deteriorating fiscal outlook,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “A sustainable fiscal foundation is an important part of securing our nation’s strength, stability and preparedness 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 July 2020 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 46. (The June value was 43. The May value was 49.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 38, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 27, 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 72. 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 online poll included 1,003 registered voters nationwide, surveyed between July 20, 2020 and July 23, 2020. 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/FiscalConfidenceIndex.

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 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 questions are as follows:

 

CONCERN (38)
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?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
Increased a lot 48% 50% 48%
Increased a little 31% 28% 28%
Decreased a little 7% 6% 7%
Decreased a lot 4% 3% 3%
(No change) 7% 8% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 5% 6%
INCREASED (NET) 80% 78% 76%
DECREASED (NET) 10% 9% 11%
 
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?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
Right direction-Strongly 11% 9% 15%
Right direction-Somewhat 19% 19% 19%
Wrong track-Somewhat 26% 27% 24%
Wrong track-Strongly 40% 40% 36%
(Neither/Mixed) 1 1 *
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 5%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 30% 28% 34%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 66% 67% 60%
PRIORITY (27)
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?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
Strongly agree 44% 44% 41%
Somewhat agree 31% 26% 29%
Somewhat disagree 15% 16% 13%
Strongly disagree 4% 7% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 7% 10%
AGREE (NET) 75% 70% 70%
DISAGREE (NET) 19% 23% 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?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
A lot more time 49% 43% 43%
A little more time 32% 34% 34%
A little less time 8% 8% 7%
A lot less time 4% 5% 5%
(The same amount of time) 3% 2% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 7% 8%
MORE TIME (NET) 81% 77% 77%
LESS TIME (NET) 12% 13% 13%
EXPECTATIONS (72)
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)?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
Much better 10% 7% 9%
Somewhat better 20% 17% 19%
Somewhat worse 32% 33% 26%
Much worse 35% 36% 38%
(No change) 1% 2% 1%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 5% 6%
BETTER (NET) 29% 24% 29%
WORSE (NET) 66% 69% 64%
 
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?
July 2020 June 2020 May 2020
Very optimistic 8% 6% 9%
Somewhat optimistic 36% 33% 33%
Somewhat pessimistic 33% 37% 34%
Very pessimistic 17% 18% 16%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 7%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 45% 39% 42%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 49% 55% 50%

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