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Attitude Check

What Americans think about austerity vs. growth

Marketplace Contributor May 24, 2012
Attitude Check

What Americans think about austerity vs. growth

Marketplace Contributor May 24, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: Leaders from all 27 member nations of the European Union met for dinner last night in Brussels. All right, food was really just an excuse to get together. They had Greece to talk about, and what to do about the rest of the European economy.

The Germans want austerity. The French want government spending to get growth going again. It’s a debate that’s being heard here as well, which leads us to ask: What do you think?

Frank Newport, the editor-in-chief at Gallup, is here every week to give us an Attitude Check, what Americans really think about the news of the week. Frank, good to talk to you again.

Frank Newport: Good to be with you.

Ryssdal: All right, so here’s what we did. Once again, we went out and did our own little survey — just, you know, not that you guys should be threatened — but we thought we’d get some people on the radio. Here’s what they said about austerity and growth.

We should save, and we shouldn’t spend money.

Growth, right? That’d be the best for the nation, for it to be able to grow.

I think austerity, because if you tend to throw more money at a bad situation, people tend not to clean it up.

The more people spend, the more money that goes into the nation, I believe. So the country could pay off its debt.

Unfortunately, they’re going to need both.

I think that’s probably it, right? Both, is that what people said?

Newport: Yes. The last real person you talked to on the street actually had it nailed. We didn’t ask Americans to choose in this latest survey; we said: How important is each of the following? And one of them was the budget deficit and debt, and another was weak economic growth. And guess what? Both were rated almost equally, and very highly, in terms of importance to Americans.

Ryssdal: Explain to me how that can be. How can it be that both are important?

Newport: Well again, it’s not a forced trade-off. Americans say ‘I would like to have no debt; I would also like to have the economy booming.’ Both of these things are important and they’re saying to presidential candidates and politicians: Tackle both of these issues, thank you very much.

Ryssdal: I don’t know if you noticed, but all the women in our survey said austerity’s important, and all of the men said growth. Does it break down on gender lines?

Newport: Not a lot of difference, but the difference that is there really mirrors politics today. I don’t know how random your sample was, but women today are more likely to be Democratic, and men are more likely to be Republicans. So I think in general, we would find Republican-oriented men saying that the deficit is more important than would women.

Ryssdal: Now this is not only a survey about the American economy, and you guys go ask about how things are going here. Do you have data on Europe and what people are thinking about austerity and growth over there?

Newport: We don’t have data from Europeans themselves, because you really have to say, ‘Do people in Greece differ than people from Germany?’ and so on and so forth. The one thing that we have found consistently here domestically here in the U.S. is that Americans aren’t paying that much attention. In fact, internationally, Americans are more worried about China and the possibility that Iran might hurt the oil supply than they are of what’s going on in Europe.

Ryssdal: That’s kind of amazing. Frank Newport is the editor-in-chief at Gallup. The segment we do with them every week is called Attitude Check. Frank, thanks a lot.

Newport: My pleasure.

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