US Fiscal Confidence Drops to New All-Time Low as Debt Ceiling Deadline Looms

May 25, 2023

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The May 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index, Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 35 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (May 25, 2023) — U.S. Fiscal Confidence hit an all-time low in May as lawmakers negotiate solutions to avoid a costly default and address the underlying issues of our $31 trillion and rising national debt. The nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 35 (100 is neutral), the lowest reading in the 10-year history of the poll.

Voters across party lines are emphatically calling on their leaders to address America’s unsustainable fiscal outlook. Nearly 9-in-10 (87%) say that their level of concern about the debt has increased, a sentiment that rose considerably among Democrats in particular. The number of voters who believe the U.S. is on the right track to addressing the problem has also fallen (24% right track/73% wrong direction, down from 27%/69% in April). Americans increasingly want to see their elected officials come to a solution on our fiscal imbalance: their belief that the debt should be a top-three priority for the President and Congress remains strong and is rising (85% agree/11% disagree, up from 80%/15% in April). This sentiment is also consistent across party lines, including 84% of Democrats, 78% of independents, and 91% of Republicans. Nearly all voters now also agree that the debt is an issue they want the President and Congress to spend more time on (88% more time/8% less time, up from 84%/8% in April).

“As the national debt grows continually while the ceiling deadline inches closer, voters have an unprecedented level of concern about our fiscal outlook,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “We need to raise the debt ceiling, and the sooner the better, because failing to do so would harm both our fiscal and economic standing. At the same time, we must finally begin to do something about the reason we keep hitting the ceiling in the first place: our unsustainable national debt. This all-time low for fiscal confidence shows that voters want their leaders to do more than simply avoid a self-inflicted wound of default — they want a solution to our growing national debt.”

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 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index value set a record low of 35. (The April value was 37. The March value was 42.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 25, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 16, 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 65. 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 15, 2023 and May 17, 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?
May 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
Increased a lot 58% 54% 54%
Increased a little 29% 28% 28%
Decreased a little 3% 4% 5%
Decreased a lot 2% 3% 2%
(No change) 6% 9% 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 2% 3%
INCREASED (NET) 87% 82% 82%
DECREASED (NET) 5% 6% 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?
May 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
Right direction — Strongly 6% 8% 12%
Right direction — Somewhat 18% 20% 20%
Wrong track — Somewhat 26% 27% 23%
Wrong track — Strongly 46% 42% 41%
(Neither/Mixed) * 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 2% 2% 4%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 73% 69% 64%
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 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
Strongly agree 64% 57% 57%
Somewhat agree 20% 23% 23%
Somewhat disagree 8% 12% 11%
Strongly disagree 3% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 85% 80% 80%
DISAGREE (NET) 11% 15% 15%
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 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
A lot more time 61% 54% 54%
A little more time 26% 30% 27%
A little less time 3% 5% 7%
A lot less time 5% 3% 3%
(The same amount of time) 2% 4% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 6%
MORE TIME (NET) 88% 84% 82%
LESS TIME (NET) 8% 8% 10%
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 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
Much better 6% 5% 8%
Somewhat better 20% 18% 21%
Somewhat worse 33% 32% 31%
Much worse 35% 37% 33%
(No change) 3% 4% 2%
(Don't know/Refused) 3% 3% 5%
BETTER (NET) 26% 24% 29%
WORSE (NET) 68% 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?
May 2023 Apr 2023 Mar 2023
Very optimistic 8% 6% 6%
Somewhat optimistic 34% 35% 37%
Somewhat pessimistic 35% 34% 33%
Very pessimistic 18% 20% 18%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 2% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 2% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 42% 41% 44%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 52% 54% 51%

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