As Lawmakers Pursue Infrastructure Policies, Voters Call on Leaders to Pay for their Priorities

Jul 29, 2021

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

The July 2021 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 48 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (July 29, 2021) — Americans’ deep concerns about the rising national debt remain steady since last month, as lawmakers from both political parties consider major new infrastructure proposals and ways to pay for them. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s monthly Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 48 (100 is neutral), indicating that voters are want the president and Congress to fully fund new public investments.

As Congress members consider a $1.2 trillion infrastructure proposal, nearly three-in-four Americans feel the national debt should be a top-three priority (72%), including 66% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 83% of Republicans. Eight in 10 voters want to see Congress and the President spend more time addressing our fiscal challenges and a majority believe that the nation is on the wrong track in addressing our debt (42% right direction/53% wrong track).

“Leaders from both parties have pledged to fully offset the cost of new spending, and voters want them to honor this commitment,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Paying for these new investments is essential, and we will also need to address the structural drivers of the debt over the long term. On our current path, interest on the debt alone will total almost $6 trillion over the next ten years, and take up nearly half of all federal revenues by 2050. This fiscal path is the definition of unsustainable, and is the major driver of this very low fiscal confidence among Americans.”

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 2021 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 48. (The June value was 48. The May value was 43.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 47, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 31, 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 67. 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 1,000 registered voters nationwide, surveyed between July 19, 2021 and July 21, 2021. 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 (47)
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
Increased a lot 50% 54% 48%
Increased a little 30% 26% 31%
Decreased a little 4% 4% 5%
Decreased a lot 3% 4% 3%
(No change) 8% 9% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 4% 4%
INCREASED (NET) 80% 80% 79%
DECREASED (NET) 7% 8% 7%
 
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
Right direction-Strongly 16% 16% 13%
Right direction-Somewhat 26% 24% 26%
Wrong track-Somewhat 20% 22% 22%
Wrong track-Strongly 33% 32% 33%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 5%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 42% 41% 39%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 53% 54% 55%
PRIORITY (31)
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
Strongly agree 44% 50% 46%
Somewhat agree 28% 25% 24%
Somewhat disagree 14% 12% 17%
Strongly disagree 7% 7% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 7% 6% 7%
AGREE (NET) 72% 75% 71%
DISAGREE (NET) 21% 19% 22%
 
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
A lot more time 46% 52% 46%
A little more time 33% 30% 33%
A little less time 7% 6% 5%
A lot less time 5% 5% 4%
(The same amount of time) 4% 3% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 4% 6%
MORE TIME (NET) 79% 82% 79%
LESS TIME (NET) 12% 11% 9%
EXPECTATIONS (67)
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
Much better 9% 11% 7%
Somewhat better 20% 19% 16%
Somewhat worse 27% 27% 31%
Much worse 38% 38% 39%
(No change) 2% 1% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 4% 5%
BETTER (NET) 28% 29% 23%
WORSE (NET) 65% 65% 70%
 
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 2021 June 2021 May 2021
Very optimistic 8% 8% 6%
Somewhat optimistic 34% 32% 31%
Somewhat pessimistic 29% 31% 32%
Very pessimistic 23% 23% 24%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 5%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 42% 41% 37%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 51% 54% 56%

What Does the Debt Mean for Our Future?

We all have a responsibility to build a brighter fiscal and economic future for the next generation.

National Debt Clock

See the latest numbers and learn more about the causes of our high and rising debt.