US Voters Remain Deeply Concerned About the National Debt, As Fed Continues Interest Rate Hikes to Combat Inflation

Sep 29, 2022

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

The September 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 46 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (September 29, 2022) — U.S. voters are deeply concerned about the rising national debt and its impacts, as the nation continues to weather fiscal and economic uncertainty including high inflation, trillion-dollar deficits and the latest Federal Reserve rate hike. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Confidence Index for September is 46 (100 is neutral), indicating that Americans want their leaders to stabilize the debt and create a sustainable budget.

A 31-month high of 83% of voters are urging the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt, with the biggest jump among those under age 35 (8 points to 85%).

More than eight-in-ten voters (81%) also said that their concern about the national debt has increased. Nearly three-in-four voters (74%) feel the national debt should be a top-three priority for the president and Congress, including 65% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 86% of Republicans.

“Our national debt is so large, we’re already paying more than $1 billion every day on interest, and that’s growing fast,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Higher interest rates mean higher interest costs on that debt, and Americans understand this presents serious fiscal and economic challenges for our future. It’s no surprise that voters are highly concerned and are calling on their leaders to put our budget on a more sustainable path that will ensure we have greater stability and the resources we need to support broad-based economic opportunity and prosperity.”

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 September 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 46. (The August value was 44. The July value was 37.)
  • 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 73, an all-time low. 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 September 19, 2022 and September 21, 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 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 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?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
Increased a lot 52% 52% 54%
Increased a little 29% 28% 27%
Decreased a little 6% 6% 5%
Decreased a lot 3% 2% 2%
(No change) 8% 10% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 3% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 81% 80% 81%
DECREASED (NET) 9% 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?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
Right direction — Strongly 13% 11% 8%
Right direction — Somewhat 20% 22% 16%
Wrong track — Somewhat 22% 24% 27%
Wrong track — Strongly 42% 40% 46%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% * *
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 2% 3%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 33% 33% 24%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 64% 65% 73%
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?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
Strongly agree 51% 48% 49%
Somewhat agree 24% 26% 24%
Somewhat disagree 16% 16% 16%
Strongly disagree 5% 5% 6%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 4% 5%
AGREE (NET) 74% 75% 73%
DISAGREE (NET) 21% 21% 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?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
A lot more time 52% 47% 50%
A little more time 31% 34% 29%
A little less time 6% 8% 8%
A lot less time 4% 3% 5%
(The same amount of time) 5% 4% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 83% 81% 79%
LESS TIME (NET) 10% 11% 13%
EXPECTATIONS (73)
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)?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
Much better 9% 7% 6%
Somewhat better 22% 23% 16%
Somewhat worse 28% 29% 32%
Much worse 35% 34% 41%
(No change) 2% 3% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 4% 3%
BETTER (NET) 31% 30% 22%
WORSE (NET) 64% 63% 73%
 
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?
Sept 2022 Aug 2022 July 2022
Very optimistic 10% 8% 6%
Somewhat optimistic 36% 34% 30%
Somewhat pessimistic 29% 33% 36%
Very pessimistic 20% 19% 23%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 2%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 46% 42% 36%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 49% 53% 60%

Expert Views: Inflation, Interest & the National Debt

We asked experts with diverse views from across the political spectrum to share their perspectives.

National Debt Clock

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