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Survey examines if drop in fiscal confidence will impact giving

Written on Feb 24, 2023

Americans’ fiscal confidence fell for the third straight month in January despite the month’s unexpectedly strong job growth as voters across party lines grew increasingly jittery regarding the $31 trillion and rising national debt. 

The mixed signals could complicate the prospects for Americans’ charitable giving in the near and long term as a divided Congress and White House begin grappling over raising the national debt ceiling. Inflation and the likelihood of further interest rate hikes only add to the uncertainty. 

But a consensus appears to be emerging among the 84% of voters who agree on the need to bridge political divides and begin reining in a national debt that computes to just under $94,000 for every adult and child in America, said the head of the fiscal policy foundation that commissioned the survey. 

The monthly survey of fiscal confidence, which is modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index, was done late last month via an online poll of 1,000 registered voters by the Global Strategy Group and North Star Opinion Research. 

The results showed Americans’ fiscal confidence falling to 40 in January – down from 44 in November and 43 in December – on a scale of 0 to 200 in which 100 represents a neutral midpoint. The poll showed 77% of Democrats, 81% of independents, and 89% of Republicans agreed that the debt should be a top priority for the president and Congress. 

How the debt concerns will impact charitable giving remains even harder to gauge given the additional uncertainty of inflation, which the Federal Reserve has spent the past year trying to tame via interest rate hikes. 

The addition of 517,000 jobs in January and a labor shortage that kept hiring demand strong even amid a rash of tech layoffs, coupled with the International Monetary Fund’s upgraded economic outlook for 2023, could ease Americans’ fear of a recession, researchers suggested. Fears of a prolonged standoff over the debt ceiling could reverberate negatively among federal employees and others who depend on the government for things like Social Security benefits, Medicare payments, and even tax refunds.