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70% Say Default is Bad for Economy, 56% Say Failure to Cut Spending is Worse

Voters strongly agree that failing to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling is bad for the economy. But most see a failure to make big cuts in government spending as a bigger long- and short-term threat than the government defaulting on the federal debt.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 70% of Likely U.S. Voters think it would be bad for the economy if the debt ceiling is not raised and the federal government defaults on some of its loan obligations. Just 7% disagree and think it would be good for the economy. Eleven percent (11%) feel a government default will have no impact, and another 11% are not sure. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

But 56% of voters see more short-term economic danger in failing to significantly cut federal spending than in a government default on the federal debt. Thirty-four percent (34%) disagree and believe a default is worse.

Looking to the longer-term, 63% say failure to significantly cut spending is more dangerous than defaulting on the federal debt. Just 28% hold the opposite view.

The formal debt ceiling currently allows the federal government to borrow just over $14 trillion. To fund the current operations of government will require raising that limit to just over $16 trillion. Republicans in Congress are resisting calls for an increase in the debt ceiling unless it is tied to significant cuts in federal spending.

The debt ceiling comprises only a small portion of the actual liabilities of the federal government. Unfunded liabilities for a variety of programs bring the total government debt to over $100 trillion.

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The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on June 16-17, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

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