While many see a default on U.S. debt as a major problem, divisions persist on raising the ceiling

Taylor OrthDirector of Survey Data Journalism
April 26, 2023, 7:35 PM GMT+0

New polling by the Economist and YouGov finds that most Americans have been paying "a little" (50%) or "a lot" of attention (21%) to debates around the debt ceiling, which have picked up recently as a potential default looms this summer.

After being shown a description of the debt ceiling — and the history of Congress regularly voting to raise it when it is being approached — Americans are divided as to whether Congress should raise it: 39% say they should and 37% say they should not.

There is more support for raising the debt ceiling among people who say they have been paying a lot of attention to the debate (55%). And Democrats (55%) are more than twice as likely as Republicans (24%) to say the debt ceiling should be raised.

How have opinions on the debt ceiling changed over time? Since a year and a half ago, in September 2021, the share of Americans who say Congress should raise the debt ceiling has increased 5 percentage points, to 39% from 34%. (After the September 2021 poll, the debt ceiling was raised, so current findings are about views on to whether to raise it to a higher level than the September 2021 poll measured.)

Most Americans (68%) — especially those who have been paying a lot of attention to debates over the debt ceiling (75%) — say the U.S. defaulting on its debts after not raising the debt ceiling would be either a crisis or a major problem. Younger adults are far less likely than older Americans to consider a federal default as a crisis or major problem: 55% of adults under 30 say it is, compared to 86% of people 65 and older. Nevertheless, there aren't major age differences in whether or not the government should raise the debt ceiling.

— Carl Bialik, Linley Sanders, and Kathy Frankovic contributed to this article

See the toplines and crosstabs from the Economist/YouGov poll conducted on April 22 - 25, 2023 among 1,500 U.S. adult citizens.

Methodology: Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to June 1, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (34% Democratic, 31% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (JJ Gouin)

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