Raising the U.S. Debt Ceiling

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist National Poll

Majority of Americans Favor Raising Debt Ceiling Independent of Spending Cuts…More than Six in Ten Question Biden’s Mental Fitness, Fewer Have Same View of Trump

As talks continue about raising the U.S. debt ceiling, a majority of Americans say the debt limit should be raised to avoid default regardless of spending cuts. If the government does default on its loans, Americans perceive there to be plenty of blame to go around. Americans divide about who they would blame, President Joe Biden or congressional Republicans, if the U.S. defaults on its loans. As Biden’s presidential approval rating hovers in the mid-40s, more than six in ten Americans say they have concerns about Biden’s mental fitness to be president when thinking about the 2024 elections. A slim majority have the same concerns about presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump.

Raise the U.S. Debt Ceiling?
As you may know, there is a debate in Washington about raising the federal debt ceiling, which is the amount of money that the federal government can borrow to pay its bills. Do you think Congress should:
Source: NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll National Adults. Interviews conducted May 15th through May 18th, 2023, n=1,286 MOE +/- 3.4 percentage points. Totals may not add to 100% due to rounding.
  • A majority of Americans (52%) think Congress should raise the debt ceiling to avoid default and discuss spending cuts separately. 42% say Congress should only increase the debt ceiling if it makes significant spending cuts at the same time, even if it means the U.S. defaults on its loans. Democrats (75%) favor separating the two points of discussion while Republicans (65%) think increasing the debt ceiling should be contingent upon spending cuts, even if the U.S. defaults. A plurality of independents (48%) say raising the debt ceiling should happen in conjunction with spending cuts.

  • A plurality of Americans (45%) would mostly blame congressional Republicans if the debt limit is not raised, and the U.S. defaults. 43% say President Biden would be primarily to blame if the debt ceiling is not raised and the government goes into default. Seven percent say Biden and congressional Republicans would both be to blame while 3% say neither will be at fault.

  • Most Republicans (73%) and a plurality of independents (47%) would mainly blame Biden if the U.S. defaults on its loans. 75% of Democrats would fault congressional Republicans.

  • President Biden’s job approval rating is 45% among Americans, up from 41% last month. 49%, little changed from the previous poll, disapprove of the job Biden is doing in office. 38% strongly disapprove of how Biden is doing his job while 22% strongly approve.

  • When thinking about the 2024 presidential election, 62% of Americans — including 84% of Republicans, 69% of independents, and 36% of Democrats — think President Biden’s mental fitness to be president is a real concern. 36% of Americans say the argument about Biden’s mental acuity is a campaign strategy used by his opponents. 51% of Americans – including 78% of Democrats, 48% of independents, and 21% of Republicans – say former President Donald Trump’s mental fitness to be president is concerning. 43% of residents nationally say it is a campaign strategy by the opposition.

"There will be lots of finger pointing if Washington lawmakers do not avoid default," says Lee M. Miringoff, Director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. "It's a lose-lose situation for Congress and the President in the court of public opinion, if an agreement is not reached."

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