Debt and Deficit: Key Data Points from Pew Research
The public now is much more likely than four years ago to say that reducing the federal budget deficit should be a top priority in 2013 for President Obama and Congress.
When Barack Obama took office in early 2009, reducing the budget deficit was a middle-tier item on the public’s agenda. Only about half of Americans (53%) viewed it as a top policy priority, placing it ninth on a list of 20 policy goals. But our survey conducted Jan. 9-13 found that, as Obama starts his second term, only the economy and jobs are viewed as more important priorities for the coming year.
Currently, 72% say that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, up 19 points from four years ago. The budget deficit has increased as a priority since 2009 among Democrats, independents and especially Republicans.
More than eight-in-ten (84%) Republicans say this is a top priority for 2013, compared with 67% of Democrats and 71% of independents. Four years ago, 51% of Republicans, 52% of Democrats and 57% of independents said reducing the deficit was a top priority for the year ahead. (See our interactive chart, “Twelve Years of the Public’s Top Priorities“).
The public again put emphasis on the need to deal with the budget deficit, with 70% saying, in a February survey, that it was essential for the White House and Congress to address it this year.
A survey conducted in March found the public continued to say that maintaining entitlement benefits was a greater priority than cutting the deficit.
Our February survey showed that majorities also disapproved of many of the most-talked-about deficit reduction proposals in other areas as well.
Not surprisingly, partisans have markedly different views on many of the debt reduction ideas.
Still, most Americans see a need for a combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes to reduce the deficit.
There are partisan differences on the question of deficit-cutting strategy.
In a survey last December, the public gave Democrats an edge when it comes to which party can do a better job dealing with Medicare and Social Security, though the parties run nearly even on dealing with the deficit.
While there has been little change in public views on government spending in the last two years, the long-term trend over the past quarter-century is, for the most part, away from spending growth.
See also, “The Big Generation Gap at the Polls Is Echoed in Attitudes on Budget Tradeoffs,” Dec. 20, 2012.
Read more Pew Research reports on the Debt and Deficit.
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