December 11th, 2009
01:10 PM ET
8 months ago

Poll: Lowering deficit more important than boosting economy

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


Filed under: Deficit • Economy • President Obama
soundoff (116 Responses)
  1. mary mtl can

    Who did that stupid poll,,,

    December 11, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  2. Chris Matt

    Only Palin's wisdom will save us!!

    December 11, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  3. D. Tree

    That's like saying if you are lagging behind in a bicycle race you should just stop peddling.

    December 11, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  4. Ex-NC-Pub

    The majority who voted that the deficit was more important than the economy needs to understand... you don't raise taxes to reduce the deficit from people who are out of work... and it is easy to vote in favor of deficit reduction IF you have a job!

    December 11, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Pete

    Ok.

    1. How exactly do you balance the budget without raising a single tax while INCREASING defense spending.

    2. To that point, just what programs do you plan on cutting in order to balance the budget while cutting taxes and increasing defense spending.

    3. Remember, questions 1 and 2 were answered with Reaganomics in 1981, and instead of balancing the budget, the National Debt tripled in less than five years.

    December 11, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. Bill P

    If someone is unemployed they are not paying taxes at the same rate they were when they had a job.
    If a company closes it is not paying taxes at all.
    We need to get people back to work and get small businesses up and running.
    This will generate tax revenue that can be used to pay down the debt.

    December 11, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. Larry

    Our economy is never going to get better till we do something about the national debt.

    And we escalate the war in Afghanistan.

    Our government is a joke.

    December 11, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Nick

    If we don't quit spending 2 things happen that will make this recession look like a vacation:
    1) China will quit buying our debt (they're already complaining and when the banker gets angry you'd better listen)
    2) We'll have to create money to pay for this bloated government, the dollar will loose it's value and this Ponzi scheme of Fiat currency will come crashing down (Welcome to the $300 loaf of bread).

    Inflation makes fools of us all and printing trillions of dollars to throw at a problem doesn't help. The economy moves in cycles and it will turn around on it's own, the government just gets in the way.

    December 11, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  9. JIll//Colorful Colorado

    Republicans and George W. put us where we are today....in the crapper. Hopefully, we WON'T GIVE the Republicans any more seats next election. We should be learning from our past. If we want to accomplishing anything we need more Democrats.

    December 11, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  10. Arden Muller

    Unless you lower thedfeficit it doesn't matter how well the economy is doing. The boost in the economy is only temporary. The deficit is still there.

    December 11, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  11. Brian from NJ

    I keep seeing posts that say "where were all these people when Bush was running up deficits"...

    They were at the polls, first giving control of the House and the Senate to the Democrats, then giving the Democrats super majorities and the Presidency.

    This is the lesson the Democrats refuse to learn... keep doing things that po the American voter, especially the Independents, and this the fate that awaits you.

    December 11, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  12. joe smith

    since this money is taxpayers money, why not re-distribute it to the 100 million taxpayers, say $2,500 each, and let the stimulus begin..

    December 11, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  13. Stephanie

    I doubt that there is anyone who "likes" debt but then it has been building up over decades without CNN freaking out about it. Where were you when Bush/Cheney were not even including the cost of the two wars in their deficit numbers.

    As many comments indicate a poll, like all of those CNN publishes, is meaningless unless the exact questions asked , the break down ofpolitical affiliation and the other pertinent details like whether the respondents are employed or not. Completely useless!!

    December 11, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  14. Gonzo in Houston

    Was there a question in the poll about whether the American people wanted tax hikes or spending cuts to balance the budget?

    You want spending cuts? Fine, what part of YOUR benefits can we cut?
    -Medicare/Medicaide?
    -Social Security?
    -Reduce military spending in a time of war?
    -Reduce spending on infrastructure?
    -Spend less on law enforcement?

    I'm sorry, but most people want to balance the budget by raising other people's taxes and cutting other people's benefits. And very few have any practical understanding of macro-economics. That's why we elect leaders.

    December 11, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  15. eolufemi

    47% of the country does not have a net federal tax liability.

    Everybody always claims that they want a cut in federal spending, but the second anyone tries to cut federal spending, people scream to the high heavens. Look at medicare. The president proposes a cut in subsidies to insurance companies and seniors get mad. The president cuts spending on an aircraft the military doesn't even want, and people get mad.

    Yet, somehow people expect the president to force banks to lend money, and businesses to hire Americans WITHOUT raising taxes for anyone.

    Stop being ridiculous people.

    December 11, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  16. Shelly

    Polls are so weird or are American folks fickle......One day we are hollering for jobs and the next we are hollering deficit reduction. You can't have both at the same time. Once there is job growth there will be deficit reduction but deficit reduction will not spur jobs. In fact lack of jobs will hurt our children more than the deficit. And we will still whine which we love to do.
    Folks, this explains my worst fears.....we don't understand basic economics and therefore these polls mean nothing! The economy has to be stimulated and the private sector ain't doing it....they just keep filling their own pockets.

    December 11, 2009 06:08 pm at 6:08 pm |
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