New Study Shows Citizens Ready To Face Nation's Fiscal Challenges

Press Release
Thursday, September 18, 2008

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WASHINGTON—A new study, to be released September 22, reveals that the American people are willing to make sacrifices – in the form of spending cuts and tax increases -- to address growing federal fiscal imbalances, yet would do so only if they see greater government accountability.

It is vital for Americans to have a serious conversation about national priorities, burgeoning entitlement programs, what we expect from the Federal government, and what we are willing to pay for government services. But building public understanding of, and support for, difficult choices is easier said than done. Leaders are not sure whether or how they can reach Americans on these issues -- let alone what solutions the public would find acceptable if they did. 

To help better understand Americans’ attitudes about these issues, Viewpoint Learning – in partnership with Public Agenda, The Concord Coalition, The Brookings Institution and The Heritage Foundation – has conducted a nationwide series of ChoiceDialogues™ over the last two years. In these daylong sessions, representative samples of Americans worked to come to terms with the challenges facing America’s finances and future. What they found, in dialogue after dialogue across the country, is that the main obstacle to building public support for the difficult choices we face is not public opposition to tax increases or program cuts, nor is it public lack of interest. The main obstacle is a deeply felt and pervasive mistrust of government.

Perhaps as important, the dialogues, along with a follow-up survey conducted this summer, revealed the leading edge of a significant, and widespread, shift in what Americans expect of their leaders and themselves. This shift is surfacing powerfully in the current presidential campaign, and it has real implications for what it will take to reduce mistrust of government and build public support for major reform.  Americans emphasized that trust is a two-way street:

  • They want leaders to provide an honest, straightforward assessment of the challenges facing the nation.  They are increasingly suspicious of easy answers, and are more aware of when they are being pandered to; such tactics tend to reinforce mistrust.
  • They do not expect leaders to provide all the answers – but they do expect leaders to give people the chance to wrestle with the tough choices and take citizens’ viewpoints seriously.
  • They want to be challenged and play a role in problem solving; being asked to consider hard choices is not a poison pill.

You are invited to a presentation and discussion of these findings next Monday, September 22 at 8:30 a.m. in the Conference Room of The National Press Club:

WHAT: Press Conference Releasing Findings of Facing Up to the Nation's Finances Project

WHEN: Monday, September 22, 2008 8:30 a.m. (Continental Breakfast will be provided at 8 a.m.)
WHERE: The National Press Club, The Conference Room 529 14th Street NW, Thirteenth Floor Washington, DC
Featured speakers
  • Robert Bixby, Executive Director, The Concord Coalition
  • Paul Cullinan, Research Director, Budgeting for National Priorities Project, The Brookings Institution
  • Alison Acosta Fraser, Director, Roe Institute for Economic Studies, The Heritage Foundation
  • Heidi Gantwerk, Vice President, Viewpoint Learning
  • Steven Rosell, President & Co-Founder, Viewpoint Learning
  • Andrew Yarrow, Washington Director & Vice President, Public Agenda 

RSVP/Contact: Jonathan DeWald of The Concord Coalition 703-894-6222 [email protected]


The Concord Coalition is a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to balanced federal budgets and generationally responsible fiscal policy. Former U.S. Senators Warren Rudman (R-NH) and Bob Kerrey (D-NE) serve as Concord's co-chairs and former Secretary of Commerce Peter Peterson serves as president.

Jonathan DeWald
(703) 894-6222
[email protected]