Americans Growing More Concerned Over National Debt, Peterson Survey Finds

January 7, 2022 by Dan McCue
Americans Growing More Concerned Over National Debt, Peterson Survey Finds
A winter storm delivers heavy snow to the Capitol in Washington, Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON — With the nation’s debt standing at a record $29 million, a growing number of Americans are growing increasingly concerned that unsustainable federal spending will upend the economy and ultimately, their personal well-being, finds a new analysis from the nonpartisan Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

According to the foundation, a well-known fiscal watchdog based in Washington, its Fiscal Confidence Index for December 2021 came in at 45 on a scale in which 100 is considered neutral.

It interprets the reading as indicating that constituents want action on solutions to managing the debt.

Further, more than eight-in-10 likely voters said their level of concern about the national debt has increased over the past few years.


“As a New Year’s resolution, lawmakers should agree to finally address America’s structural debt, which threatens the future prosperity of the next generation,” said Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the foundation. 

“Our national debt challenge existed long before COVID and continues to grow at a dangerous and unsustainable pace,” he said. “Today, voters are rightly concerned, especially with $5.5 trillion in debt added since the start of the pandemic. It’s time to come together as a country to face a range of unsustainable challenges for our future, and the national debt should be at the top of the list. 

“We cannot create a strong and prepared nation for the next generation unless we secure our fiscal future,” he said.

The Fiscal Confidence Index measures public opinion about the national debt by asking six questions in three key areas: the level of concern and views about the direction of the national debt; how high a priority addressing the debt should be for elected leaders; expectations about whether the debt situation will get better or worse in the next few years.


The current Fiscal Confidence Index score for concern about the debt is 40, indicating deep concern about the debt. 

The score for debt as a priority that leaders must address is 29, indicating that Americans want elected leaders to make addressing long-term debt a high priority, the foundation said. In addition, the score for expectations about progress on the debt is 67. The overall Fiscal Confidence Index is the average of these three sub-category scores.

Self-described “liberal Democrats” are largely driving the issue at the moment, with 80% of them saying their concern over the debt has increased in recent weeks, up from 65% last month.

Additionally, 75% of voters said they believe  the national debt should be a top-three priority for the president and Congress, including 69% of Democrats, 69% of independents and 85% of Republicans.

The Peter G. Peterson Foundation commissioned the 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 Dec. 20, 2021 and Dec. 22, 2021. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1%.  


Detailed poll results can be found here.

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue.

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