U.S. Fiscal Confidence Dips as Lawmakers Face Shutdown Deadlines, and Interest Costs Surge

Feb 29, 2024

Contact: Jeremy Rosen

The February 2024 Fiscal Confidence Index is 40 (100 is Neutral)

NEW YORK (February 25, 2024) — As lawmakers continue to face one budget deadline after another, and with interest costs surging to record highs, U.S. Fiscal Confidence dipped to 40 in February (100 is neutral and 35 is the all-time low). In the Peter G. Peterson Foundation’s latest monthly survey, modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, 82% of voters are urging the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt.

Nearly eight-in-10 of voters say their concern about the $34 trillion and rising debt has increased (79%) and that it should be a top-three priority for lawmakers (77%, including 73% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 84% of Republicans).

“Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released new data showing that interest costs in 2024 will total a staggering $870 billion, a jump of 32 percent and more than $2 billion per day,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Americans understand that our national debt is on an unsustainable path, and want their leaders to break the political gridlock and implement solutions. Voters across party lines support a fiscal commission that would look across the entire budget and recommend reforms to stabilize our debt — and lawmakers have an opportunity to include a commission as they work to avoid a shutdown and fund the government.”

Last month’s Peterson Foundation survey found that more than nine-in-10 voters would be more likely to support a candidate that supports a bipartisan fiscal commission to reduce the national debt, including 92% of Democrats and 94% of Republicans. Additionally, substantial majorities of voters across party lines agree a commission would reduce interest costs; strengthen Social Security; lower consumer costs; improve the economy; ensure greater tax fairness; and help free up resources to address other national priorities.

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 February 2024 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 40. (The January and December values were 41.)
  • 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 24, 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 1,008 registered voters nationwide, surveyed between February 20, 2024 and February 21, 2024. 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:


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?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
Increased a lot 50% 51% 51%
Increased a little 28% 29% 28%
Decreased a little 5% 5% 5%
Decreased a lot 2% 2% 2%
(No change) 11% 9% 10%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 4%
INCREASED (NET) 79% 80% 79%
DECREASED (NET) 7% 7% 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?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
Right direction — Strongly 12% 8% 9%
Right direction — Somewhat 16% 19% 18%
Wrong track — Somewhat 24% 25% 26%
Wrong track — Strongly 43% 41% 41%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% 2%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 5% 4%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 68% 67% 67%
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?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
Strongly agree 52% 53% 51%
Somewhat agree 26% 25% 25%
Somewhat disagree 12% 13% 14%
Strongly disagree 4% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 6% 5% 6%
AGREE (NET) 77% 79% 77%
DISAGREE (NET) 17% 16% 18%
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?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
A lot more time 51% 53% 50%
A little more time 31% 29% 29%
A little less time 6% 5% 6%
A lot less time 4% 4% 5%
(The same amount of time) 3% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 5% 6% 6%
MORE TIME (NET) 82% 82% 79%
LESS TIME (NET) 10% 9% 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)?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
Much better 9% 8% 8%
Somewhat better 15% 20% 18%
Somewhat worse 34% 32% 30%
Much worse 34% 33% 34%
(No change) 3% 2% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 5% 6%
BETTER (NET) 24% 28% 26%
WORSE (NET) 67% 65% 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?
February 2024 January 2024 December 2023
Very optimistic 9% 7% 7%
Somewhat optimistic 29% 35% 31%
Somewhat pessimistic 34% 33% 36%
Very pessimistic 22% 19% 17%
(Neither/Mixed) 3% 2% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 5%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 38% 42% 39%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 55% 51% 53%

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