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. Tiffany

    If someone would have polled me, I would have said boosting the economy.

    December 11, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  2. bad behavior

    Note to Obama: STOP SPENDING!!!

    (And no more democratic slush funds for pet projects and political bribes)

    December 11, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  3. Molly Weasley

    That's the exact OPPOSITE of every other poll on this issue.

    December 11, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |

    I beg to disagree with the poll's majority. Simply put, without economic growth, government gets no money to spend on items like healthcare, unemployment, education, infrastructure, etc, etc. If the economy grows, a deficit could be easily wiped in a matter of years. Mind you, I am not advocating continuous deficit spending, but targeted spending on projects that will actually stimulate the economy while investing in the long-term infrastructural development of the country. And that includes a direct investment in the American people by way of education.

    December 11, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  5. lila

    That's a good sign. If people are now at a point that they can worry about the nations deficit more than their own poverty... that's proof the recovery is indeed working. A large part of that is because the stock market has improved and people have recovered the money in their retirement accounts. Retirement is for another day... so the economy can move slower and they think that they will still end up ahead. It's great for the economy that most people are no longer fearful about their own immediate survival. That means they will start spending... and that means business will start making money again and hire again.. and continue to grow... which creates more jobs... ect. The more people working means the more people paying taxes which means the Government will start making enough money to pay down it's debt.
    There is no question that the bank bailouts and stimulus are working like they were meant to.


    December 11, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    By the way, this survey just proves what we already knew: the majority of Americans like putting the cart before the horse (then pushing it off a cliff). If the economy does not get fixed, the deficit will only grow and grow. If you're in debt and lose your job, your debt grows...but you don't get to stop spending to eat, or drive to job interviews, or buy paper on which to print your resume, etc. If you can't follow that analogy in terms of the Stimulus plan, then shoosh yourself.

    December 11, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. Obama, Pelosi and Reid are bankrupting America......

    they need to be held accountable for ruining this country......everything will be corrected in the November elections and we can go back to American basics and the Constitution......

    December 11, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. a health economist

    I'd love to see how these polls breakdown by employment status. I'd wager there's a statistically significant difference to how many employed people think reducing the deficit is most important compared to unemployed people.

    I would also love to hear people explain why the government should not run a deficit, but it's ok for consumers, households and businesses to run their own deficit by borrowing money for mortgages, schooling and capital investments.

    December 11, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  9. Who put the twit in twitter? Sarah!

    @ Palin Power... just what exactly is Palinomics and how exactly does it work? I'd really, really like to know. Or were you just joking?

    December 11, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |


    you couldn't have been more pathetic than to say "There are some better ideas this stimulus package go around but Obama already blew 800 billion dollars on nothing that would ad economic value." And then flat out lie that the President "wanted to fund acorn and give Hollywood tax breaks initially in the first package. No special interest there."

    Every credible economist and decent human beign has concluded that the Obama stimulus did exactly what it was intended to do: save us from financial collapse which, is huge indeed. Please rid yourself of bigotry and hatred and take soem time to read data by yourself and stop listening to Palin and Limbaugh, the drug addict.

    December 11, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  11. S M R

    What do the Pollsters really know about the whole situation and why should anyone listen to that voice anyway.

    December 11, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  12. George

    Hey Palin Power: What are you smoking? How about sharing with us.
    Sarah would quit before she was nominated. She is a loser!!!

    December 11, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. Michael Hsu

    Whoa, shocking... Just a few weeks ago, botox pelosi said the opposite (that people wanted better economy even it it means higher deficits).

    December 11, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. james Miller

    All this new found urgent need for fiscal responsibility is just smoke generated by those who had their taxes roled back the last 8+ years. I agree and we should role back the tax breaks for the ultra rich till we balance the budget -----I`m willing if they are willing !!!!!!!

    December 11, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  15. Babe

    The tyranny of polling has reached utterly idiotic proportions. I don't understand how a poll can be taken on a complex subject, with the inherent danger of asking questions couched in terms that are very likely biased, if not downright incorrect, and then answered by people who are not qualified to understand what they are being asked.

    Most people, including many in our Congress, do not have enough of a background in economics to be able to comprehend and discuss such an issue intelligently, and yet they’re asked to toss off an opinion as if one did not need expertise. Having people give uninformed nonsense about serious topics trivializes both CNN and misleads viewers. It does not give credence to CNN having “the best news team in television,” a sobriquet that must be earned with more serious journalistic work than putting together poll after poll, as if this were news.

    December 11, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. Reaganomics Leads To Feudalism

    I just hope that the next time a Republican President wants to cut taxes for multi-millionares, and invade a foreign country that poses absolutely NO threat to the United States whatsoever, that we will all be thinking about the dangers of deficit spending as the case for this kind of stupidity is being made once again.

    December 11, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  17. OldUncleTom

    A not surprising result, given that 90% of us are still employed, and probably 100% of us that still answer telephone polls.

    A little ridiculous that anyone would even ask this question of ordinary people, who are unlikely in the extreme to have a qualified opinion.

    Yes, deficits are bad, but in a down economy, the loss of tax revenues does not eliminate the need for government services. It is the proper role of government to spend money to boost economic activity. The worst deficits are those we generate during good times, when the proper role of government is to apply the brakes a bit.

    December 11, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  18. Four and The Door

    Americans are finally interested in tightening the purse strings on this administration and congress. Do you think it has anything to do with the fact that the already obscene spending has brought in so very little of what was promised? Do you think?

    Americans actually are smarter than David, Rahm, Nancy, Harry, Barry and Joe give us credit for!

    December 11, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. Brian

    These polls are getting ridiculous. Enough already. Instead of electing politicians, why don't we govern our country by these polls instead? This poll is especially puzzling considering how addicted Americans are to their credit cards...and driving up their own household budget deficits. Come on, America...let's be honest You don't mind deficits, as long as you can have your cake and eat it, too. Does anybody remember when the Clinton administration balanced the budget? Of course not, nobody remembers these things because nobody cares. It's the right-wing nuts who are all of a sudden so concerned about running deficits when they let Reagon run-up our country's deficit spending as a "good thing", and then did it again under Bush. Pot calling the kettle black.

    December 11, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  20. Just a Mom

    Ya know common sense will tell you that if you boost the economy, that in itself with help with lowering the deficit. More people working and paying taxes.
    If you worry about the deficit first, more businesses will close causing more unemployment. Put the people back to work, and their taxes they pay from their payroll check will go to the deficit!

    December 11, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Jokes aside

    If you go polling Republicans thats is the result you get! yet on the sides they ask where are the jobs?. Folks dont digest any news from fox, christian monitor, wall street journal and this kind of polls they are ran by republican thugs who only look after their interest! you call on them they cry socialist!!! the word socialist is a cover for greediness. When people have jobs they pay taxes and then the Government can reduce the deficits!!. Wake up America you are being duped by the so called fiscal conservative! first, they should be moral conservatists!!

    December 11, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  22. Bedtime for Obonzo

    You Democrats are hilarious! Here's a sample...

    1. George Bush ran deficits! Where was the outrage then?

    Answer: Does that make Obama/Pelois/Reid's deficit of TEN TIMES greater OK? No.

    2. How many people in this poll were unemployed?

    Answer: A representative sample.

    3. But we must run deficits to get out of the recession!

    Answer: Not if most of the money is going to unemployment benefits or state governments to keep the Service Employee Union members happy and fully employed, neither of which creates jobs.

    December 11, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  23. JT the Show Me State College Freshman

    The House passed legislation Friday aimed at preventing the next big financial crisis, ushering in the most sweeping set of changes to the banking regulatory system since the New Deal.

    The bill, which passed 223-202, imposes more oversight and stronger capital cushions for the largest banks and Wall Street firms. It forces them to pay a total of as much as $150 billion into an emergency fund that could be tapped when a troubled firm needs to be taken over and broken up.

    The legislation also calls for the regulation of some derivatives and creates a new Consumer Financial Protection Agency to regulate products such as credit cards and mortgages.

    Also, I just heard with the pay cuts that the irresponsible CEOs are getting, this happened as well earlier today. Greed, you are going to lose, big time.

    December 11, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  24. Pat F

    Uh-oh – that Kool-aid is wearing off quickly now! Better pass some more massive government programs before anyone finally gets a clue that this big bill that President Pelosi is racking up is on OUR credit card!

    December 11, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  25. Bryan

    Ummm....was it made clear that to cut the deficit means to let the economy go into a depression? Do they realize that gov. spending makes up the bulk of GDP and would make us worth off right now? How can you ask that kind of question?

    December 11, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
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