skip to main content
Americans Expect Economic Crisis if Debt Deal Not Reached

Americans Expect Economic Crisis if Debt Deal Not Reached

This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how the government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt ceiling are affecting Americans' views of government, government leaders, political parties, the economy, and the country in general.

PRINCETON, NJ -- Six in 10 Americans believe that an economic crisis will result if Congress does not reach an agreement on the federal debt ceiling by Oct. 17, echoing the same sentiments Americans held as the country confronted the last debt ceiling situation in the summer of 2011.


These findings come from a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 14-15, as Senate and House leaders were still attempting to reach an agreement to avert a potential government default if the federal debt ceiling is not raised by Oct. 17. As of early Wednesday afternoon, Senate leaders had announced a compromise to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling, though it was still undetermined when it would pass the House and Senate chambers.

A majority of those who identify with each of the three party groups believe that an economic crisis will result if Congress does not reach an agreement. However, there are significant partisan differences in the magnitude of this concern that to some degree reflect the political differences at the heart of the current crisis. Democrats are most likely to think that a crisis will result if the government does not reach an agreement, while Republicans are least likely to hold this view.


Americans Want Their Representatives to Give in and Compromise

By a 2-to-1 margin, Americans want the people who represent them to agree to a compromise plan on increasing the debt limit, even one they disagree with, rather than holding out for the plan they might prefer. These findings mirror the same attitudes Americans held in 2011.


At least a slim majority of all partisan groups say their representatives should compromise rather than hold out, with 51% of Republicans and 72% of Democrats saying compromise is best.


Similar to what Gallup has found in the past, these findings reveal that Americans over time have consistently said that their leaders should compromise rather than stick to their beliefs.

Americans See Republican Leaders as Most Likely to Be Playing Politics

Given the low esteem in which Americans hold their elected representatives, perhaps it is not surprising that a majority say political leaders involved in the current debt ceiling situation are putting their own political interests first rather than the country's best interests. Americans rate Republicans in Congress the worse in this regard, while President Barack Obama fares the best.


Despite this most recent national debt-related political crisis also taking place against the backdrop of a government shutdown, Americans' views on how their leaders approach this debt quandary are similar to what they were during the last debt-limit situation in 2011.

Bottom Line

Americans believe policymakers are flirting with a potential economic crisis if they cannot come together and advance a proposal that raises the nation's debt ceiling. And the overwhelming share of Americans would like to see leaders compromise to bring about such a proposal.

In the face of these high stakes, though, there are indications that much of the country does not judge their political representatives as being up to the task of staving off such an economic calamity. Majorities see all the critical players -- congressional Republicans and Democrats and President Obama -- as acting on their self-interests rather than that of the nation they lead.

Survey Methods

Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 14-15, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,076 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

View methodology, full question results, and trend data.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030