Unsealing Our Debt Ceiling Fate


Tensions on Capitol Hill are rising higher than the upper interior surface of a room as Congress moves steadily closer to a debt ceiling crisis. The US reached its $31.4 trillion debt limit last week, but the Treasury has employed extraordinary measures to—temporarily—avoid any damage to the American economy. Hopefully, parents who have reached their “paying for adult child’s phone plan” limit will also employ extraordinary measures to avoid damaging the Millennial economy.


Congress can still vault past a completely avoidable economic crisis by raising the ceiling before the US defaults on its debt repayments. However, House Republicans hope to use the impending default to extract spending cuts and other demands, while President Biden and congressional Democrats prefer the janitors to break out the long mops for a clean debt ceiling increase.


Given the roof-high stakes, Americans are surprisingly “meh” on what Congress should do: 41% support raising the debt ceiling (including 60% of Democrats and 23% of Republicans), while 37% overall oppose the move and 23% are unsure. In other words, Democrats are the party most willing to raise the roof. Let’s just hope it doesn’t set America on fire.


We wondered if, especially among Republicans, some additional context would budge even the most load-bearing opposition to raising the debt limit. In addition to directly asking about support for raising the ceiling, we followed up with opposers by:


  • Reminding them that the debt ceiling was raised without strings attached on several occasions under both President Trump and Obama.
  • Reminding them that raising the debt ceiling does not actually add new debt to our national deficit, it simply authorizes payment for debt that has already been incurred.


A large majority of Republicans oppose raising the debt ceiling regardless of what context is given. This may not cause shock and aw(ning) to those who have paid attention to the politics of the debt ceiling over the last 13 years or so. This apparently drywall-hard opposition hopefully does not spell economic dome doom, as 91% of Americans think it would be at least somewhat bad if the US were to default on its debt. Maybe switching to a cathedral-style debt ceiling would help us pray for Congress to avoid complete disaster.