Six Months from Election Day, Strong Majority of Democrats and Republicans Cite National Debt as Top-Three Priority

May 26, 2022

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The May 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, Ties 7-Year Low of 41 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (May 26, 2022) — With primary elections in full swing and election day just six months away, the vast majority of voters across party lines report deep concerns about America’s financial position, according to the latest U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s monthly survey, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, tied a seven-year low of 41 (100 is neutral), indicating that as the nation endures economic turbulence including inflation and rising interest rates, constituents want leaders and candidates to prioritize America’s unsustainable debt.

More than three-in-four voters feel the national debt should be a top-three priority (77%), including 72% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 86% of Republicans. Eight in 10 (80%) say that their concern about the debt has increased. The highest percentage in nearly two years believe America is on the wrong fiscal track (65%).

“Six months from an important election, and as Americans face the challenges of high inflation, rising interest rates and economic uncertainty, it’s no surprise that voters are deeply concerned about our unsustainable national debt and budget outlook,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “CBO recently projected that interest costs would consume a staggering $8 trillion over the next 10 years, tripling to more than $3 billion per day. Voters understand that we need to stabilize the debt so we have the resources we need for key investments and a prosperous future for the next generation. Candidates have a great opportunity this campaign season to talk about solutions for a sustainable budget and more secure economic 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 May 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 41. (The April value was 42. The March value was 44.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 36, 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 60. 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 May 16, 2022 and May 18, 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:

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?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
Increased a lot 51% 54% 55%
Increased a little 29% 28% 28%
Decreased a little 5% 5% 4%
Decreased a lot 3% 3% 2%
(No change) 9% 7% 7%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 3%
INCREASED (NET) 80% 82% 83%
DECREASED (NET) 8% 8% 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?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
Right direction — Strongly 11% 12% 14%
Right direction — Somewhat 20% 22% 20%
Wrong track — Somewhat 26% 22% 25%
Wrong track — Strongly 39% 40% 37%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 3%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 65% 63% 61%
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?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
Strongly agree 52% 52% 54%
Somewhat agree 25% 25% 22%
Somewhat disagree 14% 13% 14%
Strongly disagree 4% 5% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 77% 77% 76%
DISAGREE (NET) 18% 18% 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?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
A lot more time 48% 50% 46%
A little more time 33% 32% 32%
A little less time 7% 7% 8%
A lot less time 5% 5% 5%
(The same amount of time) 3% 2% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 5%
MORE TIME (NET) 81% 82% 79%
LESS TIME (NET) 12% 12% 13%
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)?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
Much better 8% 9% 10%
Somewhat better 18% 18% 18%
Somewhat worse 31% 27% 31%
Much worse 38% 39% 35%
(No change) 2% 2% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 3% 4%
BETTER (NET) 26% 28% 28%
WORSE (NET) 69% 67% 66%
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?
May 2022 April 2022 March 2022
Very optimistic 7% 7% 8%
Somewhat optimistic 31% 31% 33%
Somewhat pessimistic 33% 32% 30%
Very pessimistic 24% 25% 23%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 2% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 38% 39% 41%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 57% 57% 53%

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