Half of Voters Would Opt for More Spending on COVID-19 Instead of Paying Down National Debt

Plurality of Republicans say government should continue spending, even at expense of national debt
President Joe Biden departs after conducting a virtual swearing in ceremony for members of his new administration via Zoom just hours after his inauguration in the State Dining Room at the White House on Jan. 20, 2021. in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
January 21, 2021 at 4:00 pm UTC

Key Takeaways

  • 1 in 4 voters say the national debt should be reduced, even at the expense of further spending to counter the effects of the pandemic.

  • 63% of Democrats and 39% of Republicans want the government to keep spending on coronavirus aid, casting debt concerns aside.

President Joe Biden is inheriting a country deep in debt, while the demand for further spending to curb the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic remains high, particularly among voters in his party.

A new Morning Consult poll found that just over half of all voters (51 percent) said that the federal government should continue to spend to counter the negative impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, while a quarter said that the national debt should be reduced, even at the expense of further COVID-19 spending.

The national debt rose $7.8 trillion to nearly $28 trillion during Donald Trump’s presidency, with spending and tax cuts creating soaring deficits even before the coronavirus pandemic and large spending bills. And now, Biden’s $1.9 trillion spending package would tack another sizable increase onto that figure at the beginning of his tenure.

It’s a move that Biden seems prepared to make: Even Janet Yellen, Biden’s pick for Treasury secretary who was traditionally a budget dove during her time as head of the Federal Reserve, said during her confirmation hearing that neither she nor Biden “propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden. But right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big.”

Democrats especially seem to agree, with 63 percent saying the federal government should spend more on COVID-19 efforts, compared to 18 percent who said the government should prioritize the national debt. Those responses reflect a dynamic that has played out in Congress, as some Senate Republicans argued down the price tags on previous economic relief efforts while Democratic lawmakers urged more spending.

A plurality of Republicans (39 percent) said that the federal government should continue spending to combat COVID-19, compared to 33 percent who said the opposite.

Independents were more likely to back pandemic aid even at the expense of growing debt, with 45 percent saying the federal government should spend on COVID-19 and 26 percent saying lawmakers should prioritize reducing the national budget.

The survey was conducted Jan. 20-21 among 1,993 registered voters and has a margin of error of 2 percentage points. 

Claire Williams previously worked at Morning Consult as a reporter covering finances.

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