Poll shows more people concerned about national debt than national default

posted at 10:40 am on May 25, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

Maybe if media organizations do enough polls on this subject, they might actually believe the consistent results they produce.  This time, the Washington Post teams up with Pew to determine that the White House’s scare tactics on default haven’t budged the needle on raising the debt limit.  In fact, they can’t even get a majority of their own party to worry more about a default than adding to the national debt:

The debate over whether to raise the legal limit on government borrowing has riveted Americans, with a large majority worried about the potential consequences regardless of whether Congress votes to allow the national debt to keep increasing.

But when pressed to name their biggest concern, nearly half of respondents say they are alarmed by the prospect that the debt could grow beyond its current limit of $14.3 trillion, according to a new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll. Only 35 percent say they are more worried about the risk of default and economic destabilization if Congress does not raise the debt limit.

Pew breaks down the numbers:

The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted May 19-22 among 1,004 adults, finds that by more than two-to-one (60% to 25%), Republicans say their greater concern is that raising the debt limit would lead to higher government spending and make the national debt bigger.

Independents, by 49% to 34%, also say their bigger concern is that raising the debt limit would lead to more spending and more debt. Nearly half of Democrats (48%) say their greater concern is that not raising the debt limit would lead to a government default, but 38% say they are more concerned that raising the debt limit would lead to higher spending.

Only 25% of the respondents say that they have “heard a lot” about the issue, but even that’s bad news for the White House.  Among those most engaged, a majority worry more about adding to the national debt (52%), while 37% worry more about a default.  The attempt to panic people into hiking the limit on borrowing has failed, even among Democrats.

This puts the White House on the outside of the mainstream on fiscal policy.  The consistent poll numbers strengthen the Republican bargaining position for restructuring federal spending in significant ways as a tradeoff for what will be a very unpopular policy choice.  As Democrats in the Senate start to approach the 2012 elections, more and more of them will start to demand the same changes as Republicans in order to protect their own seats in what looks like the next GOP wave.  If the President keeps demanding debt-ceiling hikes while offering relative pittances for cuts, that wave will turn into a tsunami — again.


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what is the difference?

Queen0fCups on May 25, 2011 at 10:43 AM

The problem they have is that the CBO has said that we can put debt maintenance first, meaning the chances of a true default aren’t high.

More specifically, it means that the shortfalls in funding will come out of federal spending rather than debt maintenance, meaning that we’re going to have to cut spending one way or another because there won’t be enough money.

teke184 on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

doesn’t one lead to the other?

Queen0fCups on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Why is it that the Marxist trash always assumes we’ll default on our existing debt, rather than reign in spending to the point we’re not borrowing anymore?

MNHawk on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Do we really trust “adult Americans” to understand and opine about defaults???

Odie1941 on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Two sides of the same coin.

It’s the spending, stupid.

Missy on May 25, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Unfortunately, they are also more worried about getting ‘their fair share of entitlements’ than about national default.

Vashta.Nerada on May 25, 2011 at 10:48 AM

WH has been outside the mainstream for a long time

cmsinaz on May 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM

People are concerned about the national debt and deficits, until you mention Medicare and suddenly debt and deficits are so important.

bopbottle on May 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Why is it that the Marxist trash always assumes we’ll default on our existing debt, rather than reign in spending to the point we’re not borrowing anymore?

MNHawk on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Think like a crack addict. As they come close to “defaulting” on their habit – they will go to any vile lengths to maintain the habit – while increasingly spending more and more each week. Once you are hooked, you are hooked

Odie1941 on May 25, 2011 at 10:51 AM

in what looks like the next GOP wave.

Here we go again, horse pushing cart.

I seem to remember Brady was suppose to win that SuperBowl, Boston could no way come back from a 0-3 start in the series, and Cuban’s Mavs were a shoooo-n to beat Houston.

All this we got it in the bag stuff leaves out the oh so smart and focused RNC.

Limerick on May 25, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Really Queen? Are you for real?!?

People are more worried about future spending by raising the legal limit our government is allow to spend versus being forced to stop spending and pay off our debt, basically eliminating our debt so we don’t default on the money we already owe.

It’s like having a credit card that you’ve already reached your limit on and that can’t pay. Then asking for an increase in the limit because you need to spend more money and don’t want to be in trouble for going over the limit…

Ltlgeneral64 on May 25, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Why is it that the Marxist trash always assumes we’ll default on our existing debt, rather than reign in spending to the point we’re not borrowing anymore?

MNHawk on May 25, 2011 at 10:44 AM

Prophetic…

“The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money” ~ Margaret Thatcher

Roy Rogers on May 25, 2011 at 10:53 AM

Obama’s speech in London is a pedantic history lesson.

John the Libertarian on May 25, 2011 at 10:59 AM

When you have to print money to pay your debts, your already in default.

wheelgun on May 25, 2011 at 11:03 AM

Only 25% of the respondents say that they have “heard a lot” about the issue

Good God! More people are aware of American Idol than an issue that affects their current and future prosperity.

Depressing!

WashJeff on May 25, 2011 at 11:06 AM

It don’t take no stinkin’ Albert Einstein to figure out bad things happen when you owe more money than you can pay back.

Herb on May 25, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Recent election in New York would deem otherwise; it seems many people aren’t going to be convinced there is a fire until their own hair starts blazing.

PBHO doesn’t care anyway, his “I killed Bin Laden” campaign slogan is already headed to the bumper sticker and t-shirt factory.

Bishop on May 25, 2011 at 11:16 AM

What part of “spending your way OUT of debt” makes any sense?

Roy Rogers on May 25, 2011 at 11:17 AM

I agree with the majority in this poll, but I just have to wonder how many people surveyed had the faintest idea what the question meant.

Ltlgeneral64 on May 25, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Except it isn’t like that at all because the Feds can print money.

MJBrutus on May 25, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Mostly because people don’t fully understand the consequences of default.

If people were polled on the choice between debt vs growth or debt vs entitlements, the results would be more interesting. Though we’ve seen some voter expression on those questions each November.

dedalus on May 25, 2011 at 11:17 AM

It’s going to be interesting if the US goes belly-up.

Greece going bankrupt is nowhere as bad the US. Greece has Germany to bail them out. Who is going to save the US?

Crux Australis on May 25, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Who is going to save the US?

Crux Australis on May 25, 2011 at 11:20 AM

China?

… ha…HAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, we’re screwed.

teke184 on May 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Except it isn’t like that at all because the Feds can print money.

MJBrutus on May 25, 2011 at 11:17 AM

Except it is because the results of payment-by-inflation are indistinguishable from that of literal bankruptcy.

HitNRun on May 25, 2011 at 11:33 AM

Who is going to save the US?

Crux Australis on May 25, 2011 at 11:20 AM

China?

… ha…HAHAHAHAHA! Yeah, we’re screwed.

teke184 on May 25, 2011 at 11:30 AM

My money is on Americans who get bitter, and who cling to guns or religion or antipathy to liberals who aren’t like them.

A majority of Americans are MAD AS HELL and aren’t going to take it anymore.

November 2012 will be better than November 2010.

Roy Rogers on May 25, 2011 at 11:35 AM

This puts the White House on the outside of the mainstream on fiscal policy.

When has this White House not been outside of the mainstream on most policies?

bookman on May 25, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Except it is because the results of payment-by-inflation are indistinguishable from that of literal bankruptcy.

HitNRun on May 25, 2011 at 11:33 AM

Sure, in some ways. However, we are not experiencing much inflation. Food and energy are rising, but most other prices are not. Largely, we are being beaten to the bottom by places like Europe.

The dollar is still viewed as a safe haven and that is keeping it afloat. Can confidence be shaken? Sure, and that is the real danger. A credit default is one type of event that can destroy confidence over night. Now even without a debt ceiling increase, I don’t see us defaulting for a while. However, without an increase, the chance that we could becomes realistic in the minds of our creditors and that could produce such an immediate and disastrous lack of confidence.

MJBrutus on May 25, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Pew is not to be trusted, they have admitted to doing phony ‘push polls’ to dishonestly advance the liberal cause of campaign finance reform.

slickwillie2001 on May 25, 2011 at 12:54 PM

There’s one big factor that you’re not considering in these numbers… Republican leadership has come out and said they will not let the country default. thus, people are less likely to worry about default because they know it’s very unlikely to happen.

If the prospects of default were more real, I think you’d see a lot more people worried about it.

Tom_Shipley on May 25, 2011 at 1:30 PM

Tom_Shipley on May 25, 2011 at 1:30 PM

In the end, it’s basically unthinkable that the debt ceiling won’t be raised. I’m glad to see the R’s trying to get something out of it, however. If nothing else, just drawing attention to the size of the debt.

MJBrutus on May 25, 2011 at 2:02 PM

Two sides of the same coin.

It’s the spending, stupid.

Missy on May 25, 2011 at 10:46 AM

And we had to borrow that coin.

davidk on May 25, 2011 at 5:39 PM