US Fiscal Confidence Near Record Low as Nation Enters Era of Rising Interest Rates and Economic Uncertainty

Mar 31, 2022

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

The March 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (March 31, 2022) — U.S. Fiscal confidence remains near a record low as the Federal Reserve raised interest rates to fight high inflation, and while the nation faces significant domestic economic uncertainty and global challenges. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s March Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 44 (100 is neutral), reflecting heightened voter concern about America’s fiscal condition with $30 trillion in debt and an unsustainable trajectory of rising deficits in the years ahead.

Eighty-three percent of voters say their concern about the debt has increased in recent years, up 5 points from last month, driven by Democrats (78%, increased from 72% last month) and independents (84%, from 76% last month). More than three-in-four voters (76%) want the national debt to be a top-three priority for the president and Congress, including 69% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 85% of Republicans.

“Rising interest rates mean rising interest costs, and Americans understand that’s a major problem for a country that’s $30 trillion in debt,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “With trillion-dollar structural deficits as far as the eye can see, interest costs will soon be the fastest growing part of the federal budget. As we face complex challenges at home and abroad, we need to shore up our fiscal foundation to enable a strong economy and maintain our leading role in the world.”

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 March 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 44. (The February value was 42. The January 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 28, 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 66. 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 March 21, 2022 and March 23, 2022. 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 (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?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
Increased a lot 55% 51% 52%
Increased a little 28% 27% 32%
Decreased a little 4% 5% 4%
Decreased a lot 2% 3% 2%
(No change) 7% 10% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 3%
INCREASED (NET) 83% 78% 84%
DECREASED (NET) 6% 9% 6%
 
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?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
Right direction — Strongly 14% 10% 12%
Right direction — Somewhat 20% 22% 21%
Wrong track — Somewhat 25% 24% 23%
Wrong track — Strongly 37% 38% 40%
(Neither/Mixed) 1 2 1
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 3%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 34% 32% 33%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 61% 62% 63%
PRIORITY (28)
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?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
Strongly agree 54% 50% 50%
Somewhat agree 22% 26% 26%
Somewhat disagree 14% 13% 14%
Strongly disagree 5% 7% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 76% 76% 76%
DISAGREE (NET) 19% 20% 19%
 
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?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
A lot more time 46% 47% 50%
A little more time 32% 32% 31%
A little less time 8% 7% 8%
A lot less time 5% 6% 4%
(The same amount of time) 4% 3% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 79% 79% 81%
LESS TIME (NET) 13% 13% 12%
EXPECTATIONS (66)
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)?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
Much better 10% 7% 9%
Somewhat better 18% 17% 17%
Somewhat worse 31% 31% 32%
Much worse 25% 38% 38%
(No change) 2% 2% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 4% 4% 3%
BETTER (NET) 28% 25% 26%
WORSE (NET) 66% 69% 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?
March 2022 February 2022 January 2022
Very optimistic 8% 7% 8%
Somewhat optimistic 33% 30% 30%
Somewhat pessimistic 30% 32% 33%
Very pessimistic 23% 26% 24%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 3% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 41% 37% 38%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 53% 58% 57%

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