New Survey: 9-in-10 Voters Call for Bipartisan Fiscal Commission as New Speaker Takes Helm

Oct 26, 2023

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

Americans Deeply Concerned about Worsening Fiscal Outlook, Growing Interest Burden and Looming Automatic Social Security Cuts

Ahead of Upcoming Budget Deadlines, October U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index dips to 38 (100 is neutral)

NEW YORK (October 26, 2023) — A new Peter G. Peterson Foundation survey shows that 89% of U.S. voters are calling for a bipartisan fiscal commission to address the rising national debt. As a new Speaker takes the helm and Congress faces next month’s budget deadline, voters are deeply concerned about big-picture fiscal challenges, including the rising burden of interest costs and the rapidly approaching depletion of Social Security, which will result in automatic benefit cuts by 2033 if lawmakers do nothing.

More broadly, the U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index dipped this month to 38 (100 is neutral), just three points above its all-time low in May.

This new national survey, jointly conducted by Democratic firm Global Strategy Group and Republican firm North Star Opinion Research, finds:

  • 89% of voters, including 90% of Democrats, 90% of Republicans, and 87% of independents, agree that it is important for lawmakers to create a bipartisan fiscal commission to recommend comprehensive reforms to stabilize the $33 trillion and rising national debt.
  • 91% of voters say they are concerned about America’s growing interest burden, which costs $1.8 billion per day on net interest or approximately $5,500 per household this year.
  • 93% of voters, including 93% of Democrats and 95% of Republicans, are concerned that automatic benefit cuts to Social Security that will occur if lawmakers fail to reform the program by 2033. This across-the-board reduction (required under current law) is projected to be a $17,400 per year cut for the average couple, beginning in less than 10 years.
  • 96% of voters say it’s important (with 73% saying its “very important”) that lawmakers reform Social Security so it is available for current retirees and younger generations.

“Across party lines, overwhelming majorities of voters are deeply concerned about the $33 trillion and growing national debt, and they want their leaders to take action,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “A bipartisan fiscal commission would allow lawmakers to look comprehensively across the whole budget, incorporating solutions from both parties. With interest costs rising rapidly and essential programs like Social Security on unstable footing, now is the time for a responsible, forward-looking approach to stabilize our debt put America on a stronger, more prosperous path.”

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 October 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 38. (The September value was 39. The August value was 38.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 29, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 22, 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 62. 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 October 16, 2023 and October 18, 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?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
Increased a lot 53% 50% 53%
Increased a little 27% 29% 31%
Decreased a little 4% 4% 4%
Decreased a lot 3% 3% 2%
(No change) 10% 10% 8%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 79% 80% 84%
DECREASED (NET) 7% 7% 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?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
Right direction — Strongly 7% 8% 6%
Right direction — Somewhat 18% 20% 23%
Wrong track — Somewhat 26% 27% 27%
Wrong track — Strongly 44% 42% 42%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% *
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 2%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 70% 69% 69%
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?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
Strongly agree 55% 55% 52%
Somewhat agree 24% 25% 28%
Somewhat disagree 12% 12% 12%
Strongly disagree 5% 4% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 4%
AGREE (NET) 79% 80% 80%
DISAGREE (NET) 16% 15% 16%
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?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
A lot more time 53% 53% 53%
A little more time 30% 30% 31%
A little less time 4% 5% 6%
A lot less time 4% 4% 4%
(The same amount of time) 4% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 5% 3%
MORE TIME (NET) 83% 83% 84%
LESS TIME (NET) 9% 9% 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)?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
Much better 5% 6% 4%
Somewhat better 19% 19% 21%
Somewhat worse 32% 32% 33%
Much worse 36% 36% 35%
(No change) 4% 3% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 4% 3%
BETTER (NET) 24% 25% 25%
WORSE (NET) 68% 67% 68%
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?
October 2023 September 2023 August 2023
Very optimistic 7% 6% 4%
Somewhat optimistic 34% 36% 37%
Somewhat pessimistic 34% 33% 34%
Very pessimistic 19% 18% 18%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 41% 42% 42%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 53% 51% 52%

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