December 11th, 2009
01:10 PM ET
9 years 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. sensible cape Coral Fl

    Doesn't boostering the economy automatically lower the deficit? Giving people more purchasing power has to be good for all concerned. Or am I crazy?

    December 11, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. smokey

    I wonder who these people are that they polled.I can not imagine anyone who does not have a job let alone Health Insurance to say they are more concerned with our nation debt all of sudden , rather than having a job.. Wonder where are this concern was for the last 8 years ?..And I guess they don't realize that in order to bring down the national debt, we have to control Health insurance costs , which is the main issue driving up our debt, let alone the 2 wars we are in which the prev WH choose not to include in the budget ????So I believe Pres Obama has our priorities straight, so lets all get on board !!

    December 11, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |

    Wait a minute...TARP was a loan to banks (and auto) which was supposed to be paid back. It was never part of the deficit. In fact, the government makes money on it, since the banks are paying it back with fees and interest. Now they want to take that money to pay off a deficit? Or worse, use the TARP money for another meaningless stimulus? Isn't that like taking a cash advance from your credit card to make the monthly payment?

    December 11, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  4. SocialismBad

    The people have spoken! But do the Democrats listen? Appears they have all gone deaf. Full speed ahead and over the financial cliff appears to be their answer to the American people.

    Bye bye in 2010 if you continue ignoring the voters!

    December 11, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  5. Otis

    This drives me nuts. So let me explain it to everyone....

    A deficit, when applied to our DEBT, raises the amount of money we owe to other countries that we borrow from.

    A surplus, when applied to our DEBT, lowers the amount of money we owe to other countries that we borrow from.

    If you reduce the DEFICIT, you are NOT reducing the DEBT. You are still adding onto the DEBT.

    So forget about reducing the DEFICIT. Focus on reducing the DEBT!

    December 11, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  6. J2L

    With the administration's philosophy and purpose to undo all things capitalist, neither will happen,

    December 11, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  7. Greg in California

    The headline of this story is misleading: that somehow people are opposed to "boosting the economy." As the story points out, the people oppose the expenditure of more "stimulus" money. It is rightfully perceived by most that "stimulus" money is nothing more than political handouts to the usual suspects – unions and Wall Street. These groups represent maybe 5% of the population. The rest of us in the non-union private sector pay the bill and see no benefit.

    December 11, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. a little sad

    It would be interesting to know how people responded whether they or someone in their family was unemployed.

    The business line in my big-4 office has gone from 15 FTE to 0. Most of us, myself included, did quite well. However, we had 4-5 people that were out of work anywhere from 4 to 10 months (layoffs mostly happened late 2008).

    The ones who weren't the lucky ones would probably say that jobs was the more important.

    December 11, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    I agree we need to lower our debt but we must also make it clear to businesses that they have been given a second chance. We should make clear to them also that they should not expect me to have to fund another bail out of their business after they buck regulation attempts to deter or prevent them from getting themselves in the same position again. In fact it was their shady dealings and greed that got them into this mess they put us in so it makes no difference if they buck the system or not. I will not fund another bailout when they screw the pooch again. They are paying off TAPR money fast so they can go back to their old ways of high and excessive bonuses and have not learned their lessons. Well the American public has learned a lesson and that is that big business cares nothing for the people. Big business just views us as a source of funding. Well the well has run dry.

    December 11, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. Andi

    How about a poll to find out the percentage of Americans that are sick of daily polls?

    December 11, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  11. Melissa

    The very fact that ANYONE would think this way is scary as hell.

    December 11, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  12. Chicago Mob

    With the first stimulus the dems proved they can not be trusted to spend money wisely. Only a third of that money has been (spent) wasted. Now they are anxious to do more spending to "save us". You only need to look and see some of the ridiculous things the stimulus money has been used for to know we are being hosed. Right here in our district they created jobs for six weeks in duration and spent incredible sums to do it.

    December 11, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  13. rb5563

    Especially regarding "Only 30 percent say it's OK for the government to run a deficit in a time of war and economic turmoil," this is an excellent example of why we should select leaders and not run our government by polls. We all want a balanced budget on average. Deficit spending is a tool that should not be discarded.

    December 11, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  14. barbara

    Ok so now that we know that the overwhelming majority WANT money to be used towards the deficit, who is going to tell Obama and the dem leaders? you? him? her?them? it doesnt matter who tells because THEY ARE NOT LISTENING, THEY DONT CARE and INSIST on telling us all that THEY know whats best for us and we, well we are too stupid to think for ourselves.

    December 11, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  15. Mike in MN

    Back in April Obama poked fun of Tea Party protesters who among other things, were protesting the massive growth in the deficits. And he has been scolding Republicans for speaking out about the dangerous deficits levels because there were deficits under Bush too, even though the Bush deficitis were a third to half the size of the Obama deficits.
    This poll shows a solid majority of voters agree with the Tea Party protesters and Republicans. And they don't care if Bush and the Republicans had them too. They care and are scared that trillion plus deficits are dangerous and that we can't afford them. They want something done about them. Saying Bush and the Republcians had them to fixes nothing. Obama and the Democrats are in control now, not Republicans. Only Obama and his liberal progressive congressional Democrat buddies have the power to do something about them. The only blame that voters will care about is to blame Obama and the Democrats if they fail to bring the deficits down to a level that does not threaten our future.

    December 11, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  16. Jeff

    This is a disturbing trend. Deficit spending is beneficial in order to get the economy back on it's feet. FDR didn't spend enough so WWII is what eventually spurred our economy again. Once the economy rebounds, then it is IMPERATIVE to pay down the debt. However, during a recession, it is counterproductive to pay off debt when we have so many unemployed or underemployed. Tea baggers must realize that we had high deficit percentages during the Reagan and Bush years also. It is being pitched by the media and populists as the first time we have had high deficits. This is false. I wonder if the poll had asked if one was willing to wait a few years to get their job back while we pay down the deficit first. If worded that way, I doubt anyone would choose fiscal repayment over their own economic survival. When the jobs catch up with the stock market's rise, then we MUST pay down the deficit. Until, it makes no sense at all.

    December 11, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  17. Mike, formerly from Syracuse

    Let's hope that the Democratic Congress and Democratic President, who have increased the annual deficit by 300% over Bush, get 'rewarded' in 2010 and 2012 elections.

    December 11, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  18. Duh

    The people running this country have no business sense what so ever. I guess thats why they are politicians, they don't live in the real world.This so called reform they are trying to push through as well as the reckless give away programs already in place and the ridiculous cap and trade bill will drain this country. Maybe thats their plan all along., a welfare state.

    December 11, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  19. Dave of Oregon

    Imagine having one car that has been driven into a ditch somewhere. Imagine having to decide if that car that has been driven into that ditch is worthy enough to be pulled out of that ditch and then repaired. That is basically the nature of this country's economic state of affairs now after the previous George W, Bush administration drove this country into that proverbial ditch of despair. First of all, the terrible state of Wall Street took place on George W. Bush's watch with the prevailing TARP measures to save the Nation's banking system. With nearly thirteen trillion dollars in debt, this nation must now attempt to get out of that ditch of despair and be fixed up in good working condition, how does that happen without jobs and a stimulus program? The trillions have already been spent and this country is no better off for it, how can this country NOT spend more and get itself going again. One can almost guess that the Senate will be asked to raise the debt ceiling once again in order to get this country going again after the disastrous Bush administration. The Nation's future is inextricably linked to both jobs and economy making the deficit secondary to a jobs program because no new money can be made to pay for the money already spent, and that includes debt on unpaid accounts including the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. TARP was a program which was engaged by the Bush administration which Obama MUST follow through on. Jobs are a priority which will take time to have an effect on this economy given the nature of that economic ditch has become!

    December 11, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  20. Bill

    Corporations avoid paying more than 25% of their taxes by legal manipulations. Why is it ok to break the spirit of the law as long as you follow the letter? If it's made by man it can be broken by man,

    WE the people need to take our coubtry back fron these bureaucrats masquerading as representatives of the people.

    December 11, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  21. KD

    I don't get this. People are angry about not having jobs, yet they want us to fix the deficit over the economy? Don't they realize that even fewer people will have jobs if that was the course of action? Sure the deficit needs to be fixed but people need to make up their minds. Having better unemployment numbers and a lower deficit at this moment are not possible at the same time.

    December 11, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. terry,va

    What part of this story don't the dumbocraps get? The deficit would go down if they would quit spending. I realize they want to get votes by giving every hand out they can, even if they are 1000% less efficient in their programs than they would be if they just wrote everyone a check. You take away all the hand outs, and make people work for what they get, I don't have a problem. All I ask is for people to work 10 hours a week. We have trash to pick up, hospital floors to mop, ghettos to repair, etc. You get the point don't you? Just get off the couch and quit watching Oprah.

    December 11, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  23. Josh- Rochester, MN

    Ok, this is not a matter of left and right... This is a matter of politician and Joe Schmoe! We (Joe) know that running a deficit is wrong; we balance our check books and when we get into debt, we try to get back out. Politicians on the other hand are spending OUR money not their own, so they don't give a darn! Left, right, middle; it doesn't matter.

    December 11, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. kuriya

    They interview the millions of people out of work or those afraid of losing their jobs. Im not one of the people without a job.

    December 11, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  25. Eric

    How stupid can the American people be. This is econ 101, boosting the enconomy, put more people to work, which increase tax revenue, and that reduces the deficit. duh..............

    December 11, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
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