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. all the news that's fit to omit

    Before the apologists start, Bush spent too much and he got HAMMERED BY MANY CONSERVATIVES and that is wht his poll numbers plummeted before he left, he wasn't acting like a Conservative, more like a Dumocrat.

    We have this HUGE deficit now because your zero...... hero spends money that we don't have and may NEVER have for social programs that are going to cost more than they always say (except for Bush's prescription drug benefit) and PEOPLE that are not guzzling the kool-aid are concerned.

    He has outspent EVERY PRESIDENT COMBINED in less than a year and if you like 24,000 cash for clunkers and FAKE jobs in FAKE districts, you are bigger fools than we thought.

    My grand kids will be paying for his handouts and flawed ideals UNLESS he is stopped and his sheep in 2010 and he in 2012 are BOOTED OUT.

    More facts to chew on bahhhhh, bahhhh.

    December 11, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  2. seebofubar

    Well guess what Democrats, the wicked witch of the west Pelosi just asked that our debt limit be increased to 14 TRILLION DOLLARS. 4 trillion more than when Obama took office. Lets see, it only took him 10 months to increase our debt by 40%. You asked for got it.

    December 11, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  3. Opinion-nation

    Citizens can personally send money to be used towards paying down the national debt. Instead of complaining, send your check.

    December 11, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  4. Connie in Tennessee

    So why wasn't taxes increased when Bush decided to invade Iraq??
    His message to the American people was "go shopping or the terrorists
    have won". That's what caused the mess we are in right now!!

    December 11, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  5. Doug

    Presumably a majority would also prefer standing in bread lines and living in refrigerator boxes.

    December 11, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  6. B

    Where the hell was the OUTRAGE about deficit spending during the eight years of the Bush fiasco !!

    Two Wars started by him with NO plan to pay for them until obama now trying to figure out how to- pay the bills.

    Obama is taking the heat that the- MORON Bush- should have gotten..

    December 11, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Party Purity will never bring Political Power!

    Where do people think the money will come from for helping the unemployed with extended benefits if it does not come from TARP?

    Surely the same majority wants to help the unemployed and help with jobs, so what sense does it make to use 200 billion to pay off the deficit and pass a jobs bill for 150 or 200 billion? At least the TARP funds are in the budget and can be tracked another jobs bill would be outside the budget.

    The only way this poll makes any logical sense is if the majority does not want to help the unemployed or a jobs bill and to just pay down the deficit.

    I cannot believe that a majority of Americans would deny the unemployed the safety net during this recession.

    December 11, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  8. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    CNN, again, it is really hard to believe any poll that is put out. There are a megaton of more people than, "808" in the United States.
    To be honest, I hate the idea of having the deficit as high as it is, and it should be focused on like a lazor; at the same time, we need something done to prop up the job market. Besides over 300 professional job economists say that they like the idea of $200 billion going to small businesses. Small businesses are the key to future job growth, and I am 18 going on 19; so I would like the idea of $200 billion going to small businesses across the nation. I have a job, and I go to college at the same time; so I know how hard it is first hand to keep good hours at hand. I don't blame one person for this mess, I blame the person named, Greed. Greed has been given almost 3 decades to allow Wall Street to rob us royally blind, and it has to end; it will end. Did you hear the news about bailed out companies very stongly possibly getting a huge paycut? It is about time, and it should only be the begining. Besides one half million a year is nothing to whine over, so I say to those CEOs, "Put a sock in it, and shut up."

    December 11, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  9. Tom

    Lowering the deficit is not possible with the steady stream of "war expenses" pouring out of the USA and into the coffers of foreign welfare states and leaders.

    December 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  10. Tim E

    With this logic, the United States would never have pulled out of the Great Depression and our official language would be Japanese. On the up side, there would have been no 9/11.

    December 11, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  11. ohio gringo, Cleveland

    Just goes to show that Bill Maher is right: America is a stupid country.

    December 11, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Dutch/BadNewz, VA

    The deficit should NOT be our top priority. It wasn't our top priority when GWB ran it up, so why should it be a priority now? Our focus needs to be on the economy and jobs, jobs, jobs!!!

    December 11, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. Mike in MN

    A wise majority of voters are telling Obama and his liberal progressive Democrat buddies in congress that the greatest threat to the United States economy and future is a mountain of debt that can't be paid back.
    But while these wise voters are saying enough already on the out of control spending, Obama wants to direct paid back and unused TARP money, that under the law is supposed to be used to pay down the deficit, to be spent on round two of the failed stimulus. On top of that Obama and the Democrats continue to push to pass a trillion plus dollar health care reform bill that a majority of voters also do not want. In fact polls show a majority of voters would prefer nothing be done on health care at this time rather than pass either of the bills in the House or Senate.
    Obama and the Democrats continue to not hear what the majority of voters are saying. While at the same time the Republicans and Tea Parties are in agreement with the voting majority. It is not hard to see what the results of the 2010 and 2012 elections will be if this does not change.

    December 11, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Mark

    There are some better ideas this stimulus package go around but Obama already blew 800 billion dollars on nothing that would ad economic value.

    Keep in mind he wanted to fund acorn and give Hollywood tax breaks initially in the first package. No special interest there.

    December 11, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  15. W l Jones

    since government were invented they have always spent more money than were coming in from taxing do to the fax nobody want to pay it but all want good service. Enough said ,case close.

    December 11, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  16. JJ

    I wonder what percentage of the people who were in the majority in that poll were unemployed, underemployed, or had family or friends in that situation.

    I also wonder how many of the people in the majority in that poll lived during or in the decade following the Great Depression, and through World War II and in the decade or so following World War II.

    December 11, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  17. Palin Power

    We need Sarah Palin as president so that she can enact Palinomics. Only Palinomics has the power and ability to drive the deficit and the national debt DOWN TO ZERO! She will also drive unemployment DOWN TO ZERO as well!

    December 11, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. Fan of Common Sense

    WELL DUH!! That's like someone realizing that it might be better to pay their delinquent mortgage than going to Disneyland. Welcome to reality my fellow Americans! 🙂

    (However, despite what the poll says, being responsible and lowering a deficit never got an American politician re-elected, so don't expect much.)

    December 11, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. A glenn

    Does the survey distinguish whether the individuals polled are employed or not?

    December 11, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    "When this watered down joke of a healthcare reform bill fails to bring down costs, the whole system will implode. I can't wait. unfortunately, everyone will blame Obama, but maybe then we'll finally get a single payer system like the rest of the civilized world. "

    Sorry Randolph...I tend to agree with you, but this time I think you have it backwards. When it fails to do what needs doing...and it will because it's been stripped of anything meaningful and bloated with provisions that are bones thrown to the insurance industry...the GOPers will claim that the complete mess the health care industry devolves into is the fault of the bill, even though it's precisely where we're headed right now if nothing is done. They will fall back on their rhetoric regarding the magic free market that supposedly regulates and fixes itself and say "See? We told you so. Now th ehealth care industry is a mess BECAUSE OF the reform bill interfering with these giant 3rd party corporations, who ignore the needs and demands of the consumers just so they can make more money and poop in $30K toilets"...all while conveniently forgetting to mention that in reality, the reform bill did nothing to stop the impending implosion we right this minute KNOW is coming unless something effective is done.

    December 11, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  21. notfooledbydistractions

    NEVER underestimate the stupidity of the American public.

    December 11, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  22. Sniffit

    "Only 30 percent say it's OK for the government to run a deficit in a time of war and economic turmoil,"

    If that is how the question was phrased, then it is meaningless because it was asked in a vacuum. The myriad caveats that belong at the end of that sentence to place the situation in context, which are missing from it, render the survey ridiculous. Thanks for playing though. It's like asking "is it ok to hit people" without adding the "when they are coming at you with a knife."

    December 11, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. austin

    How has there been no coverage of the Norwegian Lights? The Russian Military denied that it was one of their rockets outright, so please, delve into this at least a modicum!

    And if it was a rocket, as seems to be the plea now, let's have them do it again... yes?

    December 11, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  24. Rickster

    Most politicians have no idea how to spend within our means or how to balance a budget because they have never run a business and have lived their entire lives spending other people's money.

    December 11, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Oh...forgot to add (to Randolph)...that my point was that we won't finally get single-payer after this fails...we'll have 300 million people too scared to try anything to fix it ever again...just like the GOP wants us to be.

    December 11, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
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