More than 70 percent of mid-term voters polled in a post-election survey say it is "very important" that Congress takes steps to reduce the national debt. An additional 24 percent say it is "somewhat important," according to the new data released today by MacArthur. Large majorities of both genders and across all political affiliations, all races, all regions of the country, and all income levels agree that it is "very important" for Congress to take steps to reduce the national debt.

"It is rare to see such broad agreement among the American people for legislative action that’s bound to gore many an ox," said John Palmer, co-chair of the National Research Council and National Academy of Public Administration’s recent nonpartisan committee that produced the report Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future. "They understand we have to get our collective fiscal house in order for the sake of our long-term economic vitality. Congress should pay attention." Palmer is university professor and dean emeritus of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University.

Sixty percent of those surveyed want Congress to address the national debt "through spending cuts only." According to 35 percent, "a combination of spending cuts and tax increases" is required.

"Our leaders have not candidly described the amount of pain that will be involved making the very large policy changes necessary to get the budget deficit under control," said committee co-chair Rudolph Penner, a fellow at the Urban Institute. "The huge spending cuts, especially those in Social Security and Medicare, necessary to avoid any tax increase at all, seem quite implausible politically. There has to be a compromise involving some tax increases and significant reductions in the growth of spending."

The MacArthur Foundation is committed to informing the American public and policymakers of the fiscal realities facing the country. MacArthur funded the National Research Council and National Academy of Public Administration to convene a nonpartisan expert committee and develop scenarios for long-term fiscal sustainability. The committee’s January report, Choosing the Nation’s Fiscal Future, offers tax and spending options that would stabilize the debt relative to the size of the economy. The report also provides a set of simple tests to determine whether any proposed federal budget would lead to long-term fiscal stability.

In June, MacArthur joined the Peterson and Kellogg Foundations to support AmericaSpeaks, which organized national town hall meetings in 19 cities during which a diverse group of 3,500 citizens discussed the nation’s fiscal challenges. The results of those discussions were shared with the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform.

Data were taken from the 2010 Penn Schoen Berland National Post-Election poll, which was conducted online among 1,200 Americans who voted in the 2010 mid-term election. The sample was reflective of the overall electorate with 50 percent voting Republican and 44 percent voting Democratic for Congress. The margin of error is +/- 2.83 percent.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society.

Improving the Nation’s Fiscal Future, Policy Research, Debt/Deficit, Policy, Research