January 27, 2014

Debt and Deficit: Key Data Points from Pew Research

Reducing the budget deficit has declined on the public’s agenda for the first time since President Obama first took office.


Overall, 63% say reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority for Congress and the president this year, down from 72% a year ago, according to a survey conducted Jan. 15-19. Most of the decline has come among Democrats.

Last year, 70% of the public had said in a February survey, that it was essential for the White House and Congress to address it in 2013.

A survey conducted in December, 2013 found the public continued to say that maintaining entitlement benefits was a greater priority than cutting the deficit.

Our February 2013 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 in our February 2013 survey saw a need for a combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes to reduce the deficit.

There were partisan differences on the question of deficit-cutting strategy.

In a survey in December 2012, 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 was little change in public views on government spending in the two years prior to our February 2013 survey, 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.

Index to other Key Data Point fact sheets