NPR logo Gallup: Majority Of Americans Still Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling

Gallup: Majority Of Americans Still Oppose Raising Debt Ceiling

National Debt Clock billboard in Midtown Manhattan, July 11, 2011. Ramin Talaie/Getty Images hide caption

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Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

National Debt Clock billboard in Midtown Manhattan, July 11, 2011.

Ramin Talaie/Getty Images

It may say more about the state of economic education in the nation than anything else but a majority of Americans remain opposed raising the federal debt ceiling according to a new Gallup poll.

And that's despite dire warnings by policymakers and experts that a default by the U.S. government could be calamitous. It would likely cause higher interest rates not just for the federal government but throughout the economy.

That, by the way, would make the nation's deficits and debt troubles even worse and hamstring an already slowly growing economy. Then there are all the unknown consequences. Who wants to take a chance on that?

Apparently, a lot of Americans are in a gambling mood.

According to a Gallup survey done in the last several days, 42 percent of Americans want their member of Congress to vote against raising the debt ceiling versus 22 percent who would prefer their lawmakers to vote for an increase.

And the feelings were even more negative among those who said they were very closely following the issue, with 53 percent of those saying they were against a rise compared with 37 percent in favor.

Gallup's findings came up in Wednesday's White House press briefing with a reporter implying if it represented a failure on President Obama's part in educating the American people about the dangers of the U.S. defaulting on its debt.

As you'd expect, White House press secretary Jay Carney didn't agree with that implication. Rather, since a default is unthinkable, the administration would rather not even go there, Carney appeared to be saying.

Also, Carney said most Americans haven't spent a lot of time thinking about a U.S. default since they have many other concerns on their minds.

What Carney didn't say is that the White House has tried to tread carefully in its warnings about what a default might wrought since it doesn't want to cause financial markets to implode.

Here's his exchange with the reporter:

REPORTER: The fact is that the Gallup poll has come out today saying that most of the American people do not want their representatives to raise the debt ceiling, in spite of the fact that the president was on TV last night and talked about certain things that would be at stake.

Do you feel at all that this administration has not really laid out, in very strong terms, what exactly is at stake for the American people if this debt limit is not raised?

MR. CARNEY: Jon-Christopher, we have focused not on, you know,
laying out the consequences of default, because we believe and take
leaders in Congress at their word that action will be taken to prevent
that from happening.

We have focused our energies rather on trying to achieve a deficit reduction compromise that gets our fiscal house in order.

So I think it's easy to understand why most Americans don't have a lot of time to focus on what is a debt ceiling. I mean, honestly, did anybody in this room, before they had to cover issues like this, have any idea what a debt ceiling was, any understanding of the fact that a vote by Congress to increase our ability to borrow was simply a vote to allow the United States of America to pay the bills it incurred in the past?

I think every American — or certainly a vast majority of Americans — would accept the principle, if asked, that the United States should pay its bills, just like they are asked to pay their bills. So again — but we have not focused on the consequences of default, because we don't believe there will be a default.