US Fiscal Confidence Drops as Era of Divided Government Begins

Feb 3, 2023

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The January 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 40 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (February 3, 2023) — U.S. Fiscal Confidence fell three points to 40 (100 is neutral) in January, as divided government gets underway and America’s leaders face the debt ceiling, inflation and the $31 trillion and rising national debt. The latest monthly survey, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, indicates that voters across party lines increasingly believe the debt should be a top priority for lawmakers, and they continue to urge leaders to work together to make our future more sustainable.

The poll revealed that more than 8-in-10 voters say that:

  • Lawmakers should spend more time addressing the national debt (84%);
  • The debt should be a top-three priority for the president and Congress (82%), including 77% of Democrats, 81% of independents and 89% of Republicans; and
  • Their concern about the debt has increased (82%), driven by a five-point increase among Democrats (75%, up from 70% last month).

“With interest on the debt rising to more than $1 billion a day, voters know our fiscal condition is simply not sustainable,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Instead of investing in the future, we’re stuck paying for the past and leaving an enormous burden on the next generation. Americans are calling on lawmakers to come together, bridge political divides and find bipartisan solutions that put us on a stronger and more stable path for the next generation.”

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 January 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 40. (The December value was 43. The November value was 44.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 33, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 20, 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 January 23, 2023 and January 25, 2023. 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?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
Increased a lot 51% 51% 50%
Increased a little 31% 29% 28%
Decreased a little 4% 6% 7%
Decreased a lot 3% 3% 2%
(No change) 8% 10% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 3%
INCREASED (NET) 82% 79% 78%
DECREASED (NET) 7% 8% 10%
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?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
Right direction — Strongly 9% 10% 12%
Right direction — Somewhat 20% 21% 20%
Wrong track — Somewhat 27% 27% 24%
Wrong track — Strongly 40% 39% 41%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 2%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 67% 66% 65%
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?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
Strongly agree 57% 52% 51%
Somewhat agree 25% 24% 26%
Somewhat disagree 11% 16% 16%
Strongly disagree 3% 5% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 3%
AGREE (NET) 82% 76% 77%
DISAGREE (NET) 14% 20% 20%
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?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
A lot more time 54% 49% 50%
A little more time 30% 33% 30%
A little less time 6% 6% 6%
A lot less time 4% 4% 4%
(The same amount of time) 3% 3% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 4%
MORE TIME (NET) 84% 83% 80%
LESS TIME (NET) 10% 10% 11%
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)?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
Much better 7% 8% 8%
Somewhat better 22% 19% 21%
Somewhat worse 33% 30% 28%
Much worse 33% 37% 36%
(No change) 2% 3% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 2% 3%
BETTER (NET) 29% 28% 30%
WORSE (NET) 66% 67% 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?
Jan 2023 Dec 2022 Nov 2022
Very optimistic 5% 7% 9%
Somewhat optimistic 37% 35% 33%
Somewhat pessimistic 35% 32% 32%
Very pessimistic 19% 21% 20%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 42% 43% 42%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 54% 53% 53%

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