Survey: Voters concerned about nation's debt, urge more action

Voters remained deeply concerned about the nation’s fiscal outlook and say that Washington should spend more time on the issue.

A new fiscal confidence index rose to 43 in August after two straight months at 41, the Peter G. Peterson Foundation said Tuesday.

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“As Washington prepares to get back to work this fall, voters are calling for increased focus on the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges,” said Michael A. Peterson, president and COO of the Peterson Foundation. 

“Regardless of political party, Americans understand we need to address our long-term fiscal challenges to support a growing, thriving economy.”

The index, modeled after consumer confidence gauges, measures attitudes about the nation’s long-term debt and the efforts of elected officials to address fiscal issues.

Any reading above 100 indicates positive sentiment.

A majority of respondents — 83 percent — agreed in the survey that the nation’s national debt is an issue that President Obama and Congress should be spending more time addressing, including 64 percent who say that lawmakers should spend “a lot” more time on the issue.

This concern over the nation's $17.6 trillion debt spans party lines, with 92 percent of Republicans and 76 percent of Democrats agreeing that Washington needs to focus more on the issue.

Congress is set to return Sept. 8 from a five-week summer recess but is expected to focus on passing a continuing resolution to keep the government running through the elections and into the lame-duck session.

The survey showed that concern about the debt is 37, indicating deep concern. 

The score for debt as a priority that leaders must address is 24, a sign that voters want elected leaders to make addressing long-term debt a high priority.

When asked about expectations about progress on the debt, the score was 69, indicating strong pessimism about the direction of long-term fiscal policy in the next few years.  

The nationwide poll included 1,001 registered voters contacted between Aug. 18-21. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.