Deficit Concerns Rise, But Solutions Are Elusive

For the first time in many years, public concern over the budget deficit is increasing. In February, 11% cited the deficit or debt as the most important problem facing the nation. That is up from just 6% last August and the highest percentage volunteering the deficit as a top national problem in nearly two decades.

Pew Research's annual public policy priorities survey, released in January, also found a modest rise in the percentage saying that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for the president and Congress – to 60%, from 53% a year earlier.

But concerns over deficits continue to be overshadowed by the public's dominant worry – jobs. In February, nearly three times as many people said unemployment was the top national problem as cited the deficit (31% vs. 11%).

And, as was the case in the 1990s when the deficit became a major political issue, the public shows little willingness to cut government spending to bring down the deficit. In fact, in Pew Research's survey in February as many said that they would place a higher priority on spending more to help the economy recover as on reducing the deficit (47% each). A recent CBS News/New York Times survey found majorities saying they would be unwilling to decrease spending in such areas as health care and education, or on the military, to reduce the federal budget deficit.

Read the full report Deficit Concerns Rise, But Solutions Are Elusive on the Pew Research Center's Web site.

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