Most US adults worry about the debt ceiling — but few understand it

About two-thirds of US adults say they are very concerned about the impact of the national economy if the US debt limit is not raised and the government defaults on its debts, according to a new poll, although few say they have a strong understanding of ongoing debt limit negotiations.

The poll shows about 6 in 10 say they want any increase in the debt limit combined with agreed terms for reducing the federal budget deficit. At the same time, Americans are more likely to disapprove than approve of how President Joe Biden and congressional negotiators on both sides of the aisle are handling things. negotiations. Still, more approve of Biden’s handling of the situation than congressional Republicans.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows 27% say they approve of Biden and 26% say the same about congressional Democrats, while 22% say according to congressional Republicans. Nearly half disagree with each.

Sixty-six-year-old Robert Hutchins says he somewhat approves of how House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Republicans in Congress are handling the negotiations.

“At least he’s trying to do something,” the Republican from Milton, Delaware, said of McCarthy’s leadership at his conference. “Democrats want to spend more money and they don’t want any limits on it.”

Hutchins said he doesn’t have “any confidence” in Biden and doesn’t believe in eliminating the debt ceiling, because it serves as a constant reminder of the country’s debt load, which currently stands at $31.4 trillion.

Otherwise, “you just think you have an unlimited credit card and you can spend whatever you want,” he said.

Overall, about 2 in 10 US adults say they are following negotiations about raising the debt limit very or very closely, and about 4 in 10 are following somewhat closely. Similarly, about 2 in 10 said they understood the situation well and about 4 in 10 said they understood it somewhat.

However, a clear majority – 63% – said that they think the debt limit negotiations should be accompanied by terms to reduce the budget deficit. Nineteen percent said the debt limit should be raised unconditionally and 16% said it should not be raised at all. Overall, adults who say they understand the debate better are more likely to say the debt limit should be raised unconditionally – 37% say so, compared to 50% saying that it should be tied to terms about reducing the budget deficit.

A default is likely to spell disasters for the US economy, with spillover around the world, and trigger a possible recession.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned this week that a national default destroying jobs and businesses, and leave millions of families who rely on federal government payments “likely unpaid,” including Social Security beneficiaries, veterans and military families.

An AP-NORC poll conducted earlier this year also showed little consensus on cuts to reduce the deficit: While a majority of Americans say the government is spending too much overall, majority favors more spending on popular and expensive programs including Medicare and Social Security.

Equal percentages of Republicans and Democrats say they follow and understand the negotiations, and concern about the economy if US defaults is broadly bipartisan. But about a third of Democrats say the national debt limit should be raised unconditionally, while only 6% of Republicans say the same.

Twenty-three percent of Republicans but only 7% of Democrats say the national debt limit should not be increased under any circumstances.

Aaron Loessberg-Zahl, a 33-year-old Democrat from San Jose, California, said the debt ceiling should be raised without conditions, and called the statutory borrowing limit “arbitrary.”

“Congress already controls the purse strings, they approve the annual budgets for our government,” Loessberg-Zahl said, “and I think that’s a lot of control over spending.”

He called the debate over whether and how to raise the debt ceiling “unproductive” and said he approved of the president’s handling of the negotiations.

Loessberg-Zahl said, “My belief is that those people probably don’t understand the full consequences of what happens when the country fails.”

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