Only about a third of American voters think if the government defaulted on the national debt it would lead to a financial catastrophe. In fact, some voters actually think a default would be helpful. At the same time, almost everyone agrees the national debt situation is a major problem, if not a crisis.
These are just some of the findings from a Fox News poll released Thursday.
An overwhelming majority of voters -- 89 percent -- think the country has an extremely serious debt problem. Nearly half -- 47 percent -- describe the situation as “a crisis,” and another 42 percent describe it as “a major problem.”
Tea Partiers (67 percent) are almost twice as likely as Democrats (35 percent) to call it a crisis. Majorities of Republicans (58 percent) and independents (54 percent) say “crisis” is the best way to describe the debt situation. By a 14 percentage-point margin, voters ages 55 and over (53 percent) are more likely than those ages 35 and younger (39 percent) to call it a crisis.
When voters are asked how Republicans in Congress should proceed on the debt issue, over half (55 percent) say Republicans should only agree to raise the limit after the president and Democrats agree to major spending cuts. Not only do most Republican voters (66 percent) hold this view, but also more Democrats than not (48-41 percent) concur -- their party should agree to cut spending before Congressional Republicans allow the debt limit to be raised.
If Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling and the government goes into default, 35 percent of voters think that would lead to a “financial catastrophe,” while over half -- 53 percent -- say that’s an exaggeration. There’s agreement across the board on that, as over half of independents (58 percent), Democrats (53 percent) and Republicans (53 percent) say no, it wouldn’t be a catastrophe.
Furthermore, 36 percent of voters think it would be “helpful” if Congress lets the country stop paying some of its bills because that would force the U.S. to deal with the government spending issue.
Voters don’t think official Washington understands how they feel about the debt and government spending. By wide margins, voters say Republican (by 24 points) and Tea Party leaders (by 21 points) in Washington are “out of touch” with how they feel on the issue. Views on President Obama are more divided: 47 percent of voters think he’s “in touch,” while 49 percent say “out of touch.”
A slim 53-percent majority of Republican voters say their leaders in Washington are “in touch” with how Americans feel about the debt and spending. Compare that to 76 percent of Democrats who say Obama is “in touch.”
Here’s What We Do at My House
Voters know what to do when money is tight -- spend less. When asked what they do when they go over their family budget, 67 percent say they “spend less money.” Another 13 percent say they “try to earn more money.” Just 6 percent say “borrow more.”
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 912 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from June 5 to June 7. For the total sample, it has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.