Post-Election Poll: With Divided Congress on the Way, Voters Call on Leaders to Prioritize National Debt

Nov 23, 2022

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

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

NEW YORK (November 23, 2022) — In the wake of the 2022 midterm elections, with divided government coming with the 118th Congress, American voters are calling on their leaders to prioritize the unsustainable national debt and federal budget outlook. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Confidence Index for November is 44 (100 is neutral), indicating deep concern about our nation’s fiscal and economic condition.

As interest rates continue to rise, more than three-in-four voters (77%, up from 72%) agree that the national debt should be a top-three priority for Congress and the president, including 71% of Democrats, 73% of independents, and 89% of Republicans. The percentage of voters who want leaders to spend more time addressing the debt also increased this month, to 80%, while 78% say their concern about the debt has increased.

With a post-election 9-point jump to 68, the Expectations portion of the index rose the most, driven by an increased belief that the debt situation will improve (30% better/64% worse, from 23%/69%), and also by rising optimism about progress on the debt issue (42% optimistic/53% pessimistic, from 38%/56%).

“With high inflation, risk of recession, rising interest rates and the debt soaring over $31 trillion, there are many urgent fiscal and economic priorities for the 118th Congress to address next year,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Americans are rightly concerned that our debt continues to rise without any plan to stabilize our future. Divided government provides both a requirement and an opportunity for bipartisan solutions, and voters want their leaders to prioritize a more stable and more prosperous 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 November 2022 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 44. (The October value was 40. The September value was 46.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 37, 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 68. 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 November 14, 2022 and November 16, 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 (37)
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?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
Increased a lot 50% 51% 52%
Increased a little 28% 29% 29%
Decreased a little 7% 4% 6%
Decreased a lot 2% 2% 3%
(No change) 10% 10% 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 78% 80% 81%
DECREASED (NET) 10% 7% 9%
 
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?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
Right direction — Strongly 12% 9% 13%
Right direction — Somewhat 20% 19% 20%
Wrong track — Somewhat 24% 25% 22%
Wrong track — Strongly 41% 43% 42%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 3% 2%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 32% 28% 33%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 65% 68% 64%
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?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
Strongly agree 51% 48% 51%
Somewhat agree 26% 24% 24%
Somewhat disagree 16% 17% 16%
Strongly disagree 5% 6% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 77% 72% 74%
DISAGREE (NET) 20% 23% 21%
 
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?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
A lot more time 50% 49% 52%
A little more time 30% 30% 31%
A little less time 6% 8% 6%
A lot less time 4% 3% 4%
(The same amount of time) 5% 4% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 5% 3%
MORE TIME (NET) 80% 79% 83%
LESS TIME (NET) 11% 11% 10%
EXPECTATIONS (68)
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)?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
Much better 8% 7% 9%
Somewhat better 21% 16% 22%
Somewhat worse 28% 32% 28%
Much worse 36% 38% 35%
(No change) 3% 3% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 5% 3%
BETTER (NET) 30% 23% 31%
WORSE (NET) 64% 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?
Nov 2022 Oct 2022 Sept 2022
Very optimistic 9% 7% 10%
Somewhat optimistic 33% 31% 36%
Somewhat pessimistic 32% 35% 29%
Very pessimistic 20% 21% 20%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 2% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 42% 38% 46%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 53% 56% 49%

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