Debt Ceiling Debate Reveals Divisions by Age, Income and Party Affiliation

The Nov. 3 debt-ceiling deadline is less than a week away, but Congress is on track to avoid a potential default. Yesterday’s House passage of a two-year budget deal that includes raising the debt ceiling until March 2017 sends the legislation to the Senate, which is expected to clear the measure as early as Friday.

This year’s debt-ceiling debate has both simmered and boiled, from dismissive remarks by lawmakers to market jitters on Wall Street. The following polling data from Morning Consult illustrates voter views on the issue at various points during the year, revealing major divisions based on age, income and party affiliation. But in the end, constituents as a whole remained steadfast in their positions, unswayed by the rhetoric of emanating from each end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

In the first debt limit battle of 2015, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told Congress that the federal government would breach the debt limit on March 16, after which “extraordinary measures” would be used to temporarily maintain fiscal stability until lawmakers reached an agreement to raise the debt ceiling. On March 16, Lew sent another letter to congressional leaders, this time notifying them that the extraordinary measures would be implemented through July 30.

A Morning Consult poll conducted in March found 49 percent of registered voters said Congress should not raise the debt ceiling, while half that amount saying lawmakers should. Compared to all other voting age groups, seniors were the most likely to oppose raising the debt ceiling, and they were also the most likely to have an opinion on the matter.

Do you believe that Congress should or should not raise the debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. government can legally borrow? (March 22)

A Morning Consult poll conducted in July found that support for raising the debt ceiling increased with income, rising substantially for voters with income exceeding $100,000 a year. Respondents with incomes less than $100,000 were more than twice as likely to oppose raising the debt ceiling.

Do you believe that Congress should or should not raise the debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. government can legally borrow? (March 22)

On July 30, Lew notified Congress that the use of extraordinary measures by the Treasury Department would be extended through the end of October. A Morning Consult poll in July found that many voters said their level of concern regarding the federal debt had increased in recent years.

Thinking about our national debt over the last few years, would you say your level of concern has increased or decreased? (July 27)

But that level of concern is not the most important issue voters think the next president should focus on, according to the results of September poll. Reducing the national debt came in fourth place behind job and economic growth, fighting terrorism abroad and repealing the Affordable Care Act.

What is the most important issue the next president should focus on? (Sept. 9)

 

 

On Oct. 1, Lew told lawmakers that the Treasury Department’s extraordinary measures would be exhausted on Nov. 5, after which only $30 billion would be available. That deadline was later revised to Nov. 3.

A Morning Consult poll this month found that compared with March, voters’ views barely budged regarding the debt ceiling debate, with both Democrats and Republicans fairly entrenched in their positions. About 40 percent of Democratic voters support raising the debt ceiling, a view shared by only about 20 percent of Republican respondents. In yesterday’s House vote on the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which includes a provision to raise the debt ceiling until March 2017, all House Democrats voted for the measure. On the other side of the aisle, 32 percent of House Republicans voted for the legislation, while 68 percent voted against it, making GOP lawmakers more in sync with their constituents than House Democrats on the debt-ceiling issue.

Do you believe that Congress should or should not raise the debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. government can legally borrow? (Oct. 5)

The same October poll found that Democratic voters are more likely to say an economic crisis would result if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, a view shared by a plurality of all voters.

If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling, the amount of money the U.S. government can legally borrow, do you think an economic crisis will or will not occur? (Oct. 5)

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