As New Year Begins, 8 in 10 Voters Call on Washington to Prioritize Reducing National Debt

Jan 5, 2024

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

With Debt surpassing $34 Trillion for the first time, U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index is 41 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (January 5, 2024) — With Congress returning to face unresolved budget battles and the national debt soaring past $34 trillion, nearly eight in ten voters are calling on their leaders to address the growing debt. The Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s latest U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, is 41 (100 is neutral), indicating high voter concern about America’s financial condition at the start of 2024.

Seventy-nine percent of voters are urging the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt, and the same percentage say their concern is rising. Up one point from last month, 77% of voters want the debt to be a top-three priority for the president and Congress, including 66% of Democrats, 77% of independents and 89% of Republicans.

“Sadly, we rung in the new year reaching a new record milestone of $34 trillion in national debt,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “A new year is a new opportunity to make progress on our rising national debt and in 2024, lawmakers should move beyond short-term budget battles to focus on solutions to the fundamental drivers of our debt. There is growing momentum and widespread public support for a bipartisan fiscal commission, and lawmakers have an opportunity to create one and make progress this year.”

Recent Peterson Foundation polling shows that 90% of Democrats and Republicans support a bipartisan fiscal commission, and specific legislation has now been introduced in the Senate and the House of Representatives to create one. In late 2023, the foundation convened a group of 10 respected policy experts from across the ideological spectrum to discuss how a commission can be successful and which policy reforms would help stabilize the 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 December 2023 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 41. (The November value was 37. The October value was 38.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 32, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 25, 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 1,004 registered voters nationwide, surveyed between December 18, 2023 and December 20, 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?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
Increased a lot 51% 55% 53%
Increased a little 28% 27% 27%
Decreased a little 5% 4% 4%
Decreased a lot 2% 2% 3%
(No change) 10% 10% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 2% 4%
INCREASED (NET) 79% 82% 79%
DECREASED (NET) 7% 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?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
Right direction — Strongly 9% 7% 7%
Right direction — Somewhat 18% 19% 18%
Wrong track — Somewhat 26% 27% 26%
Wrong track — Strongly 41% 43% 44%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 3%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 70% 70% 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?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
Strongly agree 51% 54% 55%
Somewhat agree 25% 23% 24%
Somewhat disagree 14% 14% 12%
Strongly disagree 4% 5% 5%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 77% 76% 79%
DISAGREE (NET) 18% 19% 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?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
A lot more time 50% 52% 53%
A little more time 29% 30% 30%
A little less time 6% 6% 4%
A lot less time 5% 4% 4%
(The same amount of time) 4% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 4% 5%
MORE TIME (NET) 79% 82% 83%
LESS TIME (NET) 11% 10% 9%
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)?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
Much better 8% 6% 5%
Somewhat better 18% 17% 19%
Somewhat worse 30% 32% 32%
Much worse 34% 38% 36%
(No change) 3% 3% 4%
(Don't know/Refused) 6% 4% 5%
BETTER (NET) 26% 23% 24%
WORSE (NET) 64% 70% 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?
December 2023 November 2023 October 2023
Very optimistic 7% 6% 7%
Somewhat optimistic 31% 30% 34%
Somewhat pessimistic 36% 36% 34%
Very pessimistic 17% 21% 19%
(Neither/Mixed) 4% 3% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 39% 37% 41%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 53% 57% 53%

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