Reason-Rupe Public Opinion Survey

Americans Oppose Raising the Debt Ceiling Again, CNBC Rick Santelli Cites Reason-Rupe Poll


Earlier today, CNBC Rick Santelli, the ostensible catalyst of the tea party movement, cited the Reason-Rupe poll's finding that 70 percent of Americans don't want to raise the debt ceiling. Moreover, a majority (55 percent) still opposes raising the debt ceiling even if it were to cause the US to default on its debt.

Santelli cited an earlier interview with Politico's Ben White, in which he explained why he thinks Americans oppose raising the debt ceiling:  "I think it's because Americans don't understand what the debt ceiling is, it's complicated."

While there is truth to that statement, Santelli laments what he views as the political elites' intellectual "hubris" of knowing what's best for everyone else:

"So let me see, let's only poll all the Princeton and Harvard professors and all the people that are writing for places like Politico, lets only poll them because—they know—you don't know anything!"

But then Santelli points out that the intellectual elite's prevailing view is actually a "giant leap of faith," to believe the Federal Reserve can actually move unemployment and that the economy is "humming along" even though it doesn't look like it, and that government programs really are helping people in the middle.

Reason-Rupe found in an earlier poll that only 25 percent think not raising the debt ceiling will actually result in a major economic crisis. Instead, 30 percent said it would cause a minor economic downturn, 10 percent thought it wouldn't cause a serious economic problem, and roughly quarter thought it would actually help the economy. 

Americans still oppose raising the debt ceiling if funding for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, is cut off (56%), while 35% would support it. Support for a debt ceiling increase reaches 45 percent only if equal amounts of budget cuts are made, however 46 percent would still oppose. Even if failing to raise the debt ceiling caused the US to default on its debt 55 percent would still oppose it and 35 percent would support it.

If Americans who support the tea party movement are excluded from the results, then a majority would favor a debt ceiling increase if spending cuts are made. However, with tea partiers included, Congress lacks support to raise the debt ceiling.

While Americans remain less concerned about the debt ceiling, they are frustrated with Congress' fiscal mismanagement. Seventy-six percent believe the federal government spends too much money, and that 60 cents of every dollar it does spend is then wasted. Even worse, 63 percent feel that Congress is out of touch with their constituents on the issue of spending. Most Americans feel Congress should be able to manage the budget, and balance it quickly—40 percent want it balanced immediately and 32 percent say it should be done within 5 years.


Nationwide telephone poll conducted September 4-8 2013 interviewed 1013 adults on both mobile (509) and landline (504) phones, with a margin of error +/- 3.7%. Columns may not add up to 100% due to rounding. Full poll results found here. Full methodology can be found here.