In Depth: Topics A to Z

Federal Budget Deficit

Next, I’m going to read a list of problems facing the country. For each one, please tell me if you personally worry about this problem a great deal, a fair amount, only a little, or not at all? First, how much do you personally worry about federal spending and the federal budget deficit?

As you may know, the Republicans in Congress and President Obama have not reached an agreement on the federal budget. As a result, the federal government has shut down all non-essential services. Do you personally view this shutdown as a crisis, as a major problem, as a minor problem, or as not a problem at all?

Now, thinking about the budget debate which has been going on in Washington, who do you think has acted more responsibly in the negotiations over the budget -- President Obama or the Republicans in Congress?

Which of the following statements comes closer to your view about the budget debate between Barack Obama and the Republicans in Congress -- it is an important battle over principles and the future of government (or) it is mostly an attempt by both sides to gain political advantage?

Trend: As you may know, automatic cuts in the federal budget -- known as sequestration -- went into effect on March. All in all, do you think the sequestration is a good thing or a bad thing for the country, or don’t you know enough to say?

Trend: All in all, do you think the sequestration is a good thing or a bad thing for you personally, or don’t you know enough to say?


How closely are you following the news about the automatic budget cuts -- known as sequestration -- scheduled to happen March 1 if President Obama and Congress don’t take action -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?
Would you tell your representative in Congress to vote to pass legislation this week to avoid the scheduled budget sequestration or let the budget sequestration go into effect as scheduled?
Do you think the U.S. economy will or will not get worse this year if the budget sequestration goes into effect as scheduled?
From what you know or have read, do you approve or disapprove of the agreement to avoid the “fiscal cliff” tax increases and spending cuts in the federal budget?
Trend: Based on what you have heard or read, do you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following handled the fiscal cliff budget negotiations? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Trend: How would you prefer to see Congress attempt to reduce the federal budget deficit -- only with spending cuts, mostly with spending cuts, equally with spending cuts and tax increases, mostly with tax increases, or only with tax increases?

Please tell me whether you favor or oppose each of the following as a way to reduce the federal debt. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Increasing tax revenues by making major changes to the current federal tax code

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

60%

33

7

Cutting defense spending

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

47%

51

2

Making significant changes to the Social Security and Medicare programs to reduce their cost

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

42%

56

2

Cutting spending for programs other than defense, Social Security and Medicare

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

59%

37

3

Increasing income tax rates for upper-income Americans

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

66%

33

1

As you may know, as part of the agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Congress will appoint a special committee to look at ways to further reduce federal spending and the national debt. If that committee does not reach an agreement, the law would impose major cuts in most federal spending including Medicare and defense. What would you like the members of this committee who represent your views on spending and the debt to do? Should they -- [ROTATED: hold out for a plan you would agree with, even if it prevents the committee from reaching an agreement, (or should they) agree to a compromise plan, even if it is a plan you would disagree with]?

Hold out
for plan

Agree to
compromise

No opinion

2011 Aug 4-7

35%

60

5

Next, I'd like to ask you about the agreement reached by the president and Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling. Based on what you know or have read about this agreement, do you approve or disapprove of it?

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2011 Aug 2

39%

46

15

Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following handled the negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

President Barack Obama

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2011 Aug 2

41

49

10

2011 Jul 27 ^

41

52

8

^ WORDING: Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following is handling the negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Speaker of the House, John Boehner

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2011 Aug 2

29

48

23

2011 Jul 27 ^

31

48

21

^ WORDING: Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following is handling the negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

%

%

%

2011 Aug 2

27

47

26

2011 Jul 27 ^

23

52

25

^ WORDING: Next, please tell me whether you approve or disapprove of the way each of the following is handling the negotiations to raise the federal debt ceiling. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Members of Congress Aligned with the Tea Party Movement

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2011 Aug 2

33%

49

19

Based on what you know or have read about the agreement, do you view it as a step forward, a step backward, or neither in terms of addressing the federal debt situation?

Step forward

Step backward

Neither

No opinion

2011 Aug 2

20%

22

50

8

What effect do you think the agreement will have on the U.S. economy -- will it -- [ROTATED: make the economy better, not have much effect, (or will it) make the economy worse]?

Better

Not much effect

Worse

No opinion

2011 Aug 2

17%

33

41

9

Next, as you may know, the president and Congress are trying to work out an agreement to increase the debt ceiling, the amount of money the government can legally borrow. The U.S. Treasury Department has said an agreement needs to be in place by August 2. Just your best guess, do you think an agreement to raise the debt limit will or will not be reached by the August 2 deadline?

Yes, will be

No, will not

No opinion

2011 Jul 15-17

49%

47

4

If an agreement is not reached by the August 2 deadline, do you think an economic crisis will or will not result?

Yes, will result

No, will not

No opinion

2011 Jul 15-17

56%

40

4

If an agreement is not reached by the August 2 deadline, do you think the government will or will not have to delay sending out Social Security and veterans' benefit payments?

Yes, will delay

No, will not

No opinion

2011 Jul 15-17

45%

49

6

What would you like the people in government who represent your views on the debt and budget deficit to do in this situation? Should they -- [ROTATED: hold out for the basic plan they want, even if the debt ceiling is not raised by the deadline, (or should they) agree to a compromise plan, even if it is a plan you disagree with]?

Hold out for
plan they want

Agree to compromise

No
opinion

%

%

%

2011 Jul 15-17

27

66

6

Which concerns you more -- [ROTATED: the government would not raise the debt ceiling and a major economic crisis would result (or) the government would raise the debt ceiling but without plans for major cuts in future spending]?

Gov't not
raise ceiling/
Major economic crisis

Gov't raise
debt ceiling
with no plan for
cutting spending

No
opinion

%

%

%

2011 Jul 15-17

35

55

10

2011 Jul 7-10

32

51

17

Based on what you know or have read about their approach to the debt ceiling negotiations, do you think each of the following is putting their own political interests first, or putting the country's best interests first? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

July 15-17, 2011
Sorted by "own political interests"

Own political
interests first

Country's best
interests first

No
opinion

%

%

%

The Republicans in Congress

72

24

4

The Democrats in Congress

65

31

4

President Obama

49

47

3

How closely are you following the news about discussions to raise the U.S. debt ceiling, the maximum amount of money the U.S. government can borrow by law -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely, or not at all?

Very
closely

Somewhat
closely

Not too
closely

Not at all

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2011 Jul 7-10

22

36

24

18

*

2011 May 5-8

23

34

23

19

1

* Less than 0.5%

From what you know or have read about the discussion of raising the debt ceiling, would you want your member of Congress to -- [ROTATED: vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling, vote against raising the debt ceiling] -- or don't you know enough to say?

Vote for

Vote against

Don't know
enough to say

No
answer

%

%

%

%

2011 Jul 7-10

22

42

35

*

2011 May 5-8

19

47

34

*

* Less than 0.5%

(Asked of those who want their member of Congress to vote for raising the debt ceiling) What are some of the reasons why you would want your member of Congress to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling? [OPEN-ENDED]

2011 Jul 7-10

%

To avoid economic catastrophe

32

To not default on debt

23

Necessary/No choice

17

To avoid government shutdown/suspension of services/benefits

16

Would have negative effect on U.S. standing in world

7

To avoid credit downgrade of U.S.

6

Other

7

No reason in particular

5

No opinion

1

Percentages total more than 100% due to multiple responses.

(Asked of those who want their member of Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling) What are some of the reasons why you would want your member of Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling? [OPEN-ENDED]

2011 Jul 7-10

%

Already have too much debt/Cannot afford more

38

Need to stop spending/Cut spending

21

Does not address problem/Would keep raising limit in future

17

U.S. needs to live within its means/Budget better

13

Would lead to tax increases/Taxes are already too high

6

U.S. should pay off debt it already owes

4

Harmful to future generations

3

Cut government jobs/Reduce salaries first

2

Stop giving money/aid to other countries

2

Being in debt to other countries not good for U.S.

1

U.S. is broke/bankrupt

1

Other

3

No reason in particular

4

No opinion

1

Percentages total more than 100% due to multiple responses.

Who do you trust more to handle the issues concerning the federal budget deficit and the federal debt ceiling -- [ROTATED: President Obama (or) The Republican leaders in Congress]?

President
Obama

Republican
leaders
in Congress

No
opinion

%

%

%

2011 Jul 7-10

43

46

11

Which do you think is more to blame for the federal budget deficit -- [ROTATED: spending too much money on federal programs that are either not needed or wasteful, (or) not raising enough money in taxes to pay for needed federal programs]?

Spending too much
on programs

Not raising enough
money in taxes

No
opinion

2011 Apr 20-23

73%

22

5

How long do you think it will be until the costs of the Medicare and Social Security programs create a crisis for the federal government -- are they already creating a crisis, will they create a crisis within the next 10 years, within 10 to 20 years, in more than 20 years, or not for the foreseeable future?

Already
creating crisis

Within
10 years

Within
10-20 years

More than
20 years

Not for
foreseeable
future

No
opinion

2011 Apr 20-23

34%

33

19

4

7

2

Which do you think is the better long-term plan for dealing with the federal budget deficit -- [ROTATED: the Republican plan put forth by Congressman Paul Ryan (or) the Democratic plan put forth by President Barack Obama]?

Republican/
Ryan plan

Democratic/
Obama plan

No

opinion

2011 Apr 20-23

43%

44

14

Are you worried or not worried that the Democratic plan for reducing the federal budget deficit in the long-term would -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2011 Apr 20-23
(sorted by "worried")

Worried

Not worried

No opinion

%

%

%

Not go far enough to fix the problem

71

24

4

Use the deficit as an excuse to raise taxes

62

36

2

Cut defense spending too much

49

48

3

Are you worried or not worried that the Republican plan for reducing the federal budget deficit in the long-term would-- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2011 Apr 20-23
(sorted by "worried")

Worried

Not worried

No opinion

%

%

%

Cut Medicare too much

66

31

3

Cut Social Security too much

65

33

2

Take away needed protections for the poor and disadvantaged

64

34

2

Protect the rich at the expense of everyone else

64

35

2

As you may know, Democratic and Republican leaders reached an agreement late Friday night on the federal budget, avoiding a federal government shutdown. Overall, do you approve or disapprove of that agreement?

Approve

Disapprove

No opinion

2011 Apr 11

62%

25

13

Based on what you have heard or read about the budget agreement, do you think it was a victory for the Democrats, a victory for the Republicans, a victory for both sides, or not a victory for either side?

Democrats

Republicans

Both sides

Neither side

No opinion

2011 Apr 11

5%

8

20

56

12

Now looking ahead to next year's federal budget, do you think it should or should not -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

A. Include higher taxes for families with household incomes of $250,000 and above

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

2011 Apr 11

59%

37

4

B. Include significant additional cuts in spending on domestic programs

Yes, should

No, should not

No opinion

2011 Apr 11

45%

47

8

Do you think the government should completely overhaul Medicare to control the cost of the program, make major changes to Medicare but not completely overhaul it, make minor changes to Medicare, or should the government not try to control the costs of Medicare?

Completely
overhaul

Make
major changes

Make
minor changes

Not try to
control costs

No
opinion

2011 Apr 11

13%

18

34

27

8

On a different subject, who do you think is doing the better job in the current efforts to agree on a new federal budget -- [ROTATED: Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress (or) The Republicans in Congress]?

Obama/
Democrats

Republicans
in Congress

Both equally (vol.)

No
opinion

2011 Apr 5

41%

34

5

20

2011 Feb 22

39%

42

3

16

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Do you think the budget proposals being made by -- [RANDOM ORDER] -- [ROTATED: go too far in cutting federal spending, are about right, (or) do not go far enough in cutting federal spending]?

A. Barack Obama and the Democrats in Congress

Go too far

Are about right

Do not go
far enough

No opinion

2011 Apr 5

15%

26

45

14

2011 Feb 22

13%

29

48

10

B. The Republicans in Congress

Go too far

Are about right

Do not go
far enough

No opinion

2011 Apr 5

32%

22

30

15

2011 Feb 22

25%

25

37

13

As you may know, if the Republicans in Congress and President Obama do not agree on federal spending goals by April 8, the federal government will have to shut down all of its nonessential services until a budget is passed. What would you like the people in government who represent your views on the budget to do in this situation? Should they -- [ROTATED: hold out for the basic budget plan they want, even if that means the government shuts down, (or should they) agree to a compromise budget plan, even if that means they pass a budget you disagree with]?

Hold out for
plan they want

Agree to
compromise

No opinion

2011 Apr 5

33%

58

9

2011 Feb 22 ^

32%

60

8

^ WORDING: As you may know, if the Republicans in Congress and President Obama do not agree on federal spending goals by March 4 …

(Asked of a half sample) Next, please say whether you favor or oppose cutting government spending in each of the following areas. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2011 Jan 14-16
(sorted by "favor")

Favor

Oppose

No opinion

%

%

%

Foreign aid

59

37

4

Funding for the arts and sciences

46

52

2

Aid to farmers

44

53

3

Homeland security

42

56

3

The military and national defense

42

57

1

Anti-poverty programs

39

55

6

Medicare

38

61

1

Social Security

34

64

2

Education

32

67

2

(Asked of a half sample) As you may know, the government will be forced to raise the legal limit on the national debt soon or the United States will default on its debts and force a government shutdown. What would you like to see Congress do -- [ROTATED: vote to raise the debt limit to avoid a government shutdown even if Congress cannot agree on measures to reduce the deficit in the future, vote to raise the debt limit only if Congress can agree ahead of time on measures to reduce the deficit in the future], or don't you know enough to say?

Raise limit even if
no agreement on
deficit reduction

Raise limit only if
agreement on
deficit reduction

Don't know
enough to say

No
answer

2011 Jan 14-16

16%

50

29

4

Next, how important is it to you that the president and Congress deal with each of the following issues in the next year -- is it -- extremely important, very important, moderately important, or not that important? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

The federal budget deficit

Extremely
important

Very
important

Moderately
important

Not that
important

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

2011 Jan 7-9

44

40

12

3

2

2007 Jan 5-7

42

34

19

3

1

2004 Dec 17-19 ^

35

42

18

3

2

2003 Jan 3-5 ^

32

36

25

5

2

2002 May 28-29 ^

25

37

28

8

2

2002 Jan 11-14

30

35

28

5

2

^ Asked of a half sample

If you had to choose, which of these do you think would be the best approach for Congress and the president to take in dealing with the U.S. economy -- [RANDOM ORDER: increasing government stimulus spending, cutting taxes, reducing the federal budget deficit and national debt, (or) increasing taxes on the wealthy]?

Reducing the
deficit/debt

Increasing taxes
on the wealthy

Cutting
taxes

Increasing
stimulus spending

No
opinion

2010 Nov 19-21

39%

31

23

5

2

Regardless of which presidential candidate you preferred, do you think the Obama administration will or will not be able to do each of the following? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

Control federal spending

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

%

%

%

Barack Obama

2009 Oct 16-19

31

67

2

2008 Nov 7-9

52

46

2

Bill Clinton

1993 Feb 12-13

52

43

5

1992 Nov 10-11

40

54

6

Do you think President Obama's proposals to address the major problems facing the country call for too much government spending, the right amount, or not enough government spending?

Too much
spending

Right
amount

Not enough
spending

No opinion

2009 Sep 11-13

60%

25

12

2

2009 Jul 17-19

59%

27

11

3

Regardless of whether you favor or oppose the economic stimulus bill that Congress passed, do you think it would have been better for the government to spend more money to stimulate the economy, better for the government to spend less money, or is the amount of spending in the bill about right?

Better to
spend more

Better to
spend less

Spending in
bill about right

No
opinion

2009 Feb 20-22

14%

41

40

4

In thinking about the trade-offs between spending government money to improve the economy versus adding considerable amounts of money to the federal debt, which do you think is the greater risk -- [ROTATED: spending too little to improve the economy (or) adding too much to the federal debt]?

Spending too little
to improve economy

Adding too much
to federal debt

No
opinion

2009 Feb 20-22

37%

59

4

Compared with the situation when George W. Bush took office in January 2001, do you think the Bush administration has made the situation better, has made no difference, or has made the situation worse in each of the following areas? How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2007 Jul 6-8
(sorted by "made better")

Made
better

Made no
difference

Made
worse

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

Terrorism

31

18

49

1

Public education

26

36

37

2

Unemployment

26

30

41

3

The economy

25

21

53

2

Federal taxes

22

32

44

3

The situation in Iraq

18

11

69

2

Race relations

17

49

31

3

Immigration

12

26

60

2

The reputation of the United States around the world

10

17

72

1

Social Security

8

44

45

3

The budget deficit

6

15

76

4

The gap between rich and poor

6

28

65

1

If you had to choose, which of the following would be more important to you -- [ROTATED: increasing spending on domestic issues such as education and health care (or) holding down the federal budget deficit]?

Increasing spending
on domestic issues

Holding down the
budget deficit

Both
(vol.)

Neither
(vol.)

No
opinion

2006 Feb 9-12

58%

33

7

1

2

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Trend for Comparison: If you had to choose, which of the following would be more important to you -- [ROTATED: increasing spending on domestic issues such as education, health care, and Social Security (or) holding down the federal budget deficit]?

Increasing spending
on domestic issues

Holding down the
budget deficit

Both
(vol.)

Neither
(vol.)

No
opinion

2002 May 28-29

65%

28

4

2

1

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Next I have some questions about the Bush administration. Whether or not you support Bush, do you think the Bush administration will or will not be able to do each of the following in its second term in office? How about -- [random order]?

Reduce the federal budget deficit

Yes, will

No, will not

No opinion

%

%

%

George W. Bush

2005 Jan 14-16 ^

26

70

4

(2001: Keep the federal budget balanced).

2001 Jan 15-16

50

46

4

Bill Clinton

1993 Feb 16-17

50

45

5

1993 Feb 12-14

46

48

6

1992 Nov 10-11

38

54

8

George H.W. Bush

1989 Jan 24-25

39

46

15

1988 Nov 14-Dec 4

33

52

15

^ Asked of a half sample

Which of these statements do you think best describes the federal budget deficit -- [ROTATED: it is a crisis, it is a major problem for the country but is not a crisis, it is a minor problem for the country, (or) it is not a problem for the country at all]?

Crisis

Major
problem

Minor
problem

Not a
problem

No
opinion

2003 Jul 18-20

20%

57

18

3

2

Which comes closer to your view about the long-term impact the recent income tax cuts will have on the federal budget deficit -- [ROTATED: the tax cuts will increase the deficit in the long run because the government will take in a lot less money that it won't be able to recover, (or) the tax cuts will decrease the deficit in the long run because they will stimulate the economy and bring in more money for the government]?

Make deficit worse

Make deficit better

No opinion

2003 Jul 18-20 ^

46%

48

6

^ Asked of a half sample

In the long run, do you think the recently passed federal income tax cuts will result in an increase or a decrease in the federal budget deficit?

Increase

Decrease

No effect (vol.)

No opinion

2003 Jul 18-20 ^

54%

34

4

8

^ Asked of a half sample

(vol.) = Volunteered response

Thinking about the trade-offs the government must make when creating a federal budget, would you rather see the government give a higher priority to -- [ROTATED: reducing the federal budget deficit (or) cutting federal income taxes]?

Reducing the
budget deficit

Cutting
taxes

Both/Equally (vol.)

No
opinion

2003 Jan 13-16

48%

42

5

5

Just your best guess, what is the main reason for the federal budget deficit -- [ROTATED: the terrorist attacks and the war in Afghanistan, the tax cuts passed last year, overspending by the federal government, (or) the current economic recession]?

Terrorist attacks and the war

Tax cuts passed
last year

Govern-ment over-spending


Economic recession


No
opinion

2002 Jan 11-14

31%

9

40

17

3

Which of the following comes closer to your view of the budget deficit -- [ROTATED: the government should run a deficit if necessary when the country is in a recession and is at war, (or) the government should balance the budget even when the country is in a recession and is at war]?

Run a deficit
if necessary

Balance
the budget

No
opinion

2002 Jan 11-14 ^

51%

46

3

^ Asked of a half sample

If you had to choose, would you rather -- [ROTATED: go forward with this year's scheduled tax cuts even if it meant the federal budget would run a deficit, (or) balance the budget even if it meant postponing or canceling this year's scheduled tax cuts]?

Go forward with
scheduled tax cuts

Balance
the budget

Mixed/
Other (vol.)

No
opinion

2002 Jan 11-14 ^

33%

62

1

4

^ Asked of a half sample

When it comes to dealing with the tough choices involved BOTH in cutting programs to reduce the budget deficit AND still maintaining needed federal programs, whose approach do you prefer: the Republicans' in Congress or President Clinton's?

Republicans

Clinton

Neither
(vol.)

Both
(vol.)

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

%

1998 Jan 6-7

39

43

6

2

10

1997 Jul 25-27

38

49

6

2

5

1995 Dec 15-18

38

52

5

1

4

1995 Jul 7-9

48

42

3

2

5

(vol.) = Volunteered response

In your opinion, is the current federal budget deficit a very serious problem for the country, a fairly serious problem, not a serious problem, or is this something you haven't thought much about?

Very
serious

Fairly
serious

Not
serious

No
opinion

%

%

%

%

1998 Jan 6-7

40

34

7

19

1989 Jan 24-26

63

20

3

14

1985 Nov 11-18

61

23

3

13

1985 Aug 13-15

57

21

2

20

1985 Apr 12-15

58

23

5

14

1984 Dec 7-10

54

29

5

12

Do you think that tax cuts and deficit reduction can be accomplished at the same time, or do you think they cannot be accomplished at the same time?

Yes, can

No, cannot

No opinion

%

%

%

1996 Jun 18-19 ^

44

48

8

1996 May 28-29

55

39

6

1994 Dec 16-18

52

43

5

^ Asked of a half sample

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