Once Aware of Upcoming Automatic Cuts to Social Security, 97% Agree Lawmakers Should Act

May 30, 2024

Contact: Jeremy Rosen
jrosen@pgpf.org

U.S. Fiscal Confidence Falls to One-Year Low of 36 in May (100 is neutral)

NEW YORK (May 30, 2024) — Most Americans are unaware of looming automatic cuts to Social Security, but once they learn about them, there is near unanimous support for lawmakers to act now on solutions.

A new Peter G. Peterson Foundation survey finds that only 30% of Americans know that without reforms, in just nine years there will be a 21% automatic cut for all Social Security beneficiaries, amounting to nearly $17,000 per year for the average couple. After learning this fact, 97% of respondents agree it is important for the leaders elected this fall to strengthen Social Security so it is fully available for current and future generations.

More broadly, the U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index in May fell to a one-year low of 36 (100 is neutral), reflecting Americans’ growing concerns that the national debt is becoming more difficult to address the longer it is neglected.

“The May 2024 Trustees Reports confirmed that Social Security is on a rapid path to insolvency, and today’s new survey shows voters want leaders to prioritize solutions to prevent devastating cuts to this essential program,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the nonpartisan Peterson Foundation. “These results demonstrate that, while there is more work to do to educate Americans about Social Security’s unstable finances, there is overwhelming support for courageous leaders to take action once the current reality is understood. Voters understand that ‘not touching’ Social Security is not an option because automatic cuts are unacceptable and waiting only makes the problem more costly and difficult to solve.”

The U.S. Fiscal Confidence Index for May found that 84% of voters are calling on the president and Congress to spend more time addressing the national debt; 77% of voters believe the debt should be a top-three priority for policymakers; and a six-month high of 70% of voters saying leaders are on the wrong track when it comes to addressing 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 May 2024 Fiscal Confidence Index value is 36. (The April value was 40. The March value was 38.)
  • The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for CONCERN about the debt is 27, indicating deep concern about the debt. The score for debt as a PRIORITY that leaders must address is 23, 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 59. 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 surveyed 1,000 registered voters nationwide between May 21 and 22. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.

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:

 

CONCERN (27)
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 2024 April 2024 March 2024
Increased a lot 52% 50% 53%
Increased a little 30% 30% 29%
Decreased a little 3% 5% 4%
Decreased a lot 2% 3% 2%
(No change) 9% 8% 9%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 4% 2%
INCREASED (NET) 82% 80% 83%
DECREASED (NET) 5% 8% 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?
May 2024 April 2024 March 2024
Right direction — Strongly 7% 9% 8%
Right direction — Somewhat 19% 19% 18%
Wrong track — Somewhat 25% 26% 26%
Wrong track — Strongly 45% 42% 44%
(Neither/Mixed) 1% 1% 1%
(Don't Know/Refused) 3% 3% 4%
RIGHT DIRECTION (NET) 26% 28% 26%
WRONG TRACK (NET) 70% 68% 69%
PRIORITY (23)
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 2024 April 2024 March 2024
Strongly agree 54% 53% 54%
Somewhat agree 24% 24% 24%
Somewhat disagree 15% 15% 13%
Strongly disagree 4% 3% 4%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 5% 5%
AGREE (NET) 77% 77% 78%
DISAGREE (NET) 19% 18% 17%
 
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 2024 April 2024 March 2024
A lot more time 54% 52% 52%
A little more time 30% 31% 32%
A little less time 5% 5% 5%
A lot less time 4% 4% 4%
(The same amount of time) 3% 3% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 4% 5%
MORE TIME (NET) 84% 84% 83%
LESS TIME (NET) 9% 9% 9%
EXPECTATIONS (59)
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 2024 April 2024 March 2024
Much better 6% 8% 7%
Somewhat better 19% 20% 19%
Somewhat worse 32% 30% 34%
Much worse 35% 35% 33%
(No change) 3% 2% 3%
(Don't know/Refused) 5% 5% 4%
BETTER (NET) 25% 28% 25%
WORSE (NET) 67% 65% 67%
 
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 2024 April 2024 March 2024
Very optimistic 4% 8% 6%
Somewhat optimistic 34% 31% 32%
Somewhat pessimistic 37% 34% 35%
Very pessimistic 19% 22% 20%
(Neither/Mixed) 2% 2% 3%
(Don't Know/Refused) 4% 3% 3%
OPTIMISTIC (NET) 38% 39% 39%
PESSIMISTIC (NET) 56% 55% 55%

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