Debt and Deficit: Key Data Points from Pew Research

The public now is much more likely than four years ago to say that reducing the federal budget deficit should be a top priority in 2013 for President Obama and Congress. 
When Barack Obama took office in early 2009, reducing the budget deficit was a middle-tier item on the public’s agenda. Only about half of Americans (53%) viewed it as a top policy priority, placing it ninth on a list of 20 policy goals. But as Obama starts his second term, only the economy and jobs are viewed as more important priorities for the coming year.

Currently, 72% say that reducing the budget deficit should be a top priority, up 19 points from four years ago. The budget deficit has increased as a priority since 2009 among Democrats, independents and especially Republicans.
More than eight-in-ten (84%) Republicans say this is a top priority for 2013, compared with 67% of Democrats and 71% of independents. Four years ago, 51% of Republicans, 52% of Democrats and 57% of independents said reducing the deficit was a top priority for the year ahead. (See our interactive chart, “Twelve Years of the Public’s Top Priorities“).
But majorities disapprove of many of the most-talked-about deficit reduction proposals.    

Not surprisingly, partisans have markedly different views on many of the debt reduction ideas.

Still, most Americans see a need for a combination of cutting major programs and increasing taxes to reduce the deficit.

Most say the nation’s debt problem can be solved only if taxes go up. But there are partisan differences over whose taxes will need to be raised. 

The public gives Democrats an edge when it comes to which party can do a better job dealing with Medicare and Social Security, though the parties run nearly even on dealing with the deficit.

 Age plays a role in views of potential budget tradeoffs. 
Older adults by a wide margin say that protecting Social Security and Medicare benefits is more important than reducing the federal budget deficit. Younger adults are much more evenly divided, with 48% saying that the programs for older adults are the higher priority and 41% saying deficit reduction.

Read more Pew Research reports on the Debt and Deficit.
Browse our other State of the Union tip sheets: 

Economy | Middle Class | Gun Control | U.S.-China Relations | Immigration | Climate Change | Gay Marriage | U.S.-Middle East Relations | Foreign Policy

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