Confidence in Dealing With Budget Problems Up Since Trump Win

A measure of American sentiment about the federal budget picture has remained at its highest level on record following Republican victories in the White House and both houses of Congress. 

The Fiscal Confidence Index, a monthly gauge compiled by the anti-deficit Peter G. Peterson Foundation, stayed at its record-high level of 60 in December 2016, the group said Jan. 5. The index hit, which has been compiled since December 2012, first hit 60 in November.

Trump at the RNC

“Americans want their elected leaders to address our nation’s unsustainable and dangerous fiscal outlook in 2017,” said Michael Peterson, president and CEO of the Peterson Foundation. “Regardless of political party, voters understand that our growing national debt impacts our economic health, and they want a renewed effort in the new year to put our nation on a more sustainable path.”

The index is meant to resemble the more widely watched Consumer Confidence Index sponsored by business group The Conference Board. Along those lines, its range goes from 0 to 200. A reading above the neutral level of 100 is indicates positive sentiment.

Americans have never been too optimistic about fiscal issues, according to the gauge, which has languished in the 40s and 50s for most of its existence. While 60 is the high-water mark for it, it remains in negative territory. 

The index number is compiled from survey responses to questions about how much the federal budget picture concerns Americans, how much priority they think lawmakers should give to dealing with it and their expectations for it ahead.

The index’s expectations component—which asks respondents whether they expect the national debt problem to get better or worse in the next few years—climbed from 93 in October to 99 in November to 103 in December. 

The percentage of respondents who expect it to get “much better” rose to 15 percent from eight percent in October, while those expecting it to get “somewhat better” rose from 19 percent in October to 25 percent in December. Polling was conducted between Dec. 19 and Dec. 22, with 1,002 respondents and a reported margin of error of 3.1 percent.