With the initial skirmishing over this year’s budget now settled, President Obama and Congress are preparing for the main event – figuring out how to make substantial inroads on the country’s $1.5 trillion deficit. In a number of surveys over the past several months, the Pew Research Center has shown where the public stands on the budget deficit – the seriousness of the problem, views of competing policy proposals, and its confidence in the policy-makers:
A Big Concern, Not the Only Concern. In December, 70% said that the federal budget deficit is a serious problem that must be addressed now. But the deficit is not the public’s top economic worry. A March survey found that 34% said the job situation was the economic issue they found most worrisome, followed by rising prices (28%) and the budget deficit (24%). The number citing the deficit as their top economy worry had increased from 19% in December. Concern over rising prices increased even more dramatically – from 15% in December to 28% in March.
The Bottom Line: Cut and Raise. The public does not eagerly embrace sacrifice to achieve deficit reduction. Asked in March about four broad proposals to reduce the deficit, a clear majority approved of just one – lowering domestic spending. Nonetheless, most Americans agree that it will be necessary to cut spending and raise taxes to cut the deficit. In December, 65% said the best way to reduce the federal budget deficit is to cut major programs and increase taxes. Majorities of Republicans, Democrats and independents favored a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.
Read the rest of the report The Deficit Debate – Where the Public Stands on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press Web site.