Washington (CNN) – Americans are more concerned with lowering the massive budget deficit than boosting the ailing economy, according to a new national poll.
Fifty-six percent of people questioned in a CNBC survey released Friday morning say President Barack Obama and Congress should worrry more about keeping the budget deficit down even if that means delaying the economic recovery. That's 23 points higher than the 33 percent who feel boosting the economy should be the top priority, even if that means larger deficits now and in the future.
The poll also indicates that by a 54 percent to 33 percent margin, Americans prefer using the estimated $200 billion in leftover TARP funds for deficit reduction rather than for more stimulus spending.
TARP, or the Troubled Asset Relief Program, was created last year by the Bush administration to bail out American banks, financial institutions and auto makers that were in danger of collapsing in the recession. Earlier this week, Obama outlined a new proposal to boost jobs and give more help to consumers and small businesses, and possibly pay for such a plan with unused bailout funds. Congressional Republicans object to such a move.
A CNN survey conducted last month indicated that two-thirds of the public thinks the government should not run a deficit, even when the country's in a recession and at war.
"Only 30 percent say it's OK for the government to run a deficit in a time of war and economic turmoil," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Even among Democrats, 59 percent don't like the idea of federal deficits."
The CNBC poll was conducted December 1-3, with 808 adults questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is 3.5 percentage points.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story