The discussion of the economy has dominated public surveys yet again. The Opportunity Agenda presents your guide to them.

By Eleni Delimpaltadaki and Shawnda Chapman

The national deficit

Americans Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling, 47% to 19%
by Gallup on 5.13.11

Days before the U.S. government was about to max out its credit, prompting a likely vote in Congress to raise the debt ceiling— now set at more than $14 trillion—several recent national polls find that the public is resistant to extending more credit but aware that not doing so could have great consequences. In a Gallup poll last week, a 47 percent plurality would want their member of Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling, compared with 19 percent who would favor it and 34 percent unsure.

According to Gallup, "Americans conditioned by so much news coverage of the enormous federal budget deficit may be reacting to the idea of raising the debt ceiling more in the context of a political deficit discussion as opposed to a financial market implications context. Nevertheless, the public's perceptions are clearly negative, suggesting the debt ceiling vote is a political hurdle lawmakers will need to overcome."


Half favor Obama on budget but majority oppose raising debt ceiling
by CNN/Opinion Research on 5.5.11

Americans are increasingly taking President Barack Obama's side in the battle over the federal budget except when it comes to the national debt. Sixty to 37 percent of Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling—more in opposition and less undecided found in this poll than in Gallup's above. There is a wide partisan gap: at least seven in 10 Republicans reject expanding the debt ceiling, while Democrats favor it in a more narrow way. Independents reject it in both polls, though not as widely as do Republicans. 


More deficit concern, less hope about solving problem
The Washington Post/Pew Research Center  on 4.26.11

Americans increasingly see the budget deficit as a big problem that demands quick action, but a dwindling number thinks the U.S. will make significant deficit reductions over the next five years. Just 31 percent now expect sizable deficit reductions in the coming five years, a 6 percentage point slide from a December Pew poll. While hopes have slipped over the five months of budget debates and furious deal making, 81 percent of Americans now call the deficit a major problem requiring immediate remedy, an 11-point jump.

Budget Negotiations in a Word:All Sides Blamed After Close Call on Government Shutdown
by Pew Research Center on 4.11.11

The public had an overwhelmingly negative reaction to the budget negotiations that narrowly avoided a government shutdown. The survey conducted over that weekend in found that "ridiculous" is the word used most frequently to describe the budget negotiations, followed by "disgusting," "frustrating," "messy," "disappointing" and "stupid."
Overall, 69% of respondents use negative terms to describe the budget talks, while just 3% use positive words; 16% use neutral words to characterize their impressions of the negotiations. Large majorities of independents (74%), Democrats (69%) and Republicans (65%) offer negative terms to describe the negotiations.

The Buck Stops Where: What D.C. Influencers and the Public Say About The National Debt
by Public Agenda on 5.12.11

The third of a series of three surveys, "The Buck Stops Where? What D.C. Influencers Say About the National Debt," by Public Agenda, shows that
the level of concern among both "leaders" (key players in crafting and implement policies) and "opinion elites" (politically active citizens) specifically about the national debt has increased since March 2010.

At the same time, "leaders" have grown more optimistic about the chances for solving the problem saying more today than a year ago that "elected officials are factoring in the national debt their decisions" and saying less that "pragmatic solutions to the national debt will be impossible to achieve due to partisan politics."


Looking forward: college, the young and economic mobility:

In U.S., Optimism About Future for Youth Reaches All-Time Low
by Gallup on 5.2.11

A large majority of Americans expressed optimism about the future for U.S. youth when Gallup first asked January 2008 if they "will have a better life than their parents" , as the recession began to take hold. They continued to do so even as the economic crisis unfolded and unemployment ballooned. Hopes for U.S. youth declined to 50% level in October 2010, however, before dropping to a new low in the April 20-23, 2011, USA Today/Gallup poll.

"Forty-four percent of Americans believe it is likely that today's youth will have a better life than their parents, even fewer than said so amid the 2008-2009 recession, and the lowest on record for a trend dating to 1983." "While most young adults believe that today's youth will be better off than their parents, optimism declines substantially among older Americans." Forty-five of 30- to 49-year-olds say the same, and even fewer 50- to 64-year-olds (36%) and seniors (37%) do.

Is College Worth It?  College Presidents, Public Assess Value, Quality and Mission of Higher Education
By Pew Research Center on 5.16.11

A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide good value for the money students and their families spend, and about four-in-ten college presidents say the system is headed in the wrong direction, according to a pair of new nationwide surveys—one of the general public; the other of college presidents—conducted by the Pew Research Center.

Public Favors Increased Government Role in Promoting American Dream

by Pew’s Economic Mobility Project on 5.19.11

Eighty-three percent of Americans support a government role in promoting upward economic mobility, a sentiment that cuts across party lines. In fact, 58 percent think it could do even more. 

Moreover, 80 percent believe the government does an ineffective job helping poor and middleclass Americans, but there is disagreement over whether government is pursuing the “wrong” policies (37 percent) or is pursuing the “right” ones ineffectively (43 percent). According to the Project’s poll, which was conducted by The Mellman Group and Public Opinion Strategies as an update of a 2009 national survey, 54 percent of respondents said that when the government does intervene, it assists the “wrong people.”