Debt Ceiling Debate Puts America In A Bad Mood: 72% Say Country Is On The Wrong Track

August 05, 2011, 5:00 PM GMT+0

The debt ceiling debate — even though at least temporarily concluded — has left Americans with negative feelings about how things are going in the country. In the just-concluded Economist/YouGov Poll, conducted as Congressional Republicans and Democrats reached agreement on a debt ceiling extension, 72% said the country was on the wrong track, the highest percentage ever during Barack Obama’s Presidency. 

That percentage had been rising in the last few weeks. It is expressed by a majority of Democrats (56%) and even more Republicans (86%).

This more negative assessment of how things stand extends to the evaluation of the economy. This week, 51% describe the economy as getting worse, among the worst assessments since the Obama Presidency began. This negative evaluation, of course, is not just driven by the debt ceiling debate, but by the continuing reports of poor economic news and what may be a stalled recovery. 

And even as Congress headed toward its eleventh-hour agreement, Americans still divided closely on whether or not the debt ceiling should be raised at all. In this week’s poll, 43% favored an increase, but 32%, including a majority of Republicans, did not.

Support and opposition to the debt ceiling has been partisan, and there appeared to be a reasonable amount of knowledge from partisans in this poll about which plan they were supposed to support. The long-term extension (favored by President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) won the support of 42% of Democrats, but was opposed by 45% of the Republicans in the poll; the short-term increase (the Boehner Plan) had the support of 52% of Republicans but only 18% of Democrats. But overall, neither plan mustered majority support.

There continues to be long-term concern about the impact of deficit spending. Nearly nine out of ten Americans describe the budget deficit as a serious issue for them, and 40% want to see the federal budget balanced immediately (something supported by over half of Republicans). More than half say it will be an important issue in their 2012 vote. So even though the debt ceiling agreement keeps the issue out of Congressional debate until after the 2012 election, it should continue to be part of America’s consciousness — and worries. 

Full datasets for Economist/YouGov polls can be found here.

Photo source: Press Association

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