If President Carter succeeds in balancing the federal budget by the end of his current term he will have fulfilled a goal viewed as "very important" by a large majority of the American public.
Two in every three Americans, 65 per cent, believe it very important to balance the federal budget, 24 per cent think it "fairly important," while 7 per cent dismiss this Carter campign pledge as "not so important." Four per cent have no opinion on the matter.
The current figures represent a marginal decline in the percentage saying a blanced budget is very important. In a survey completed in March, 1976, just as the presidential primaries had begun in earnest, 69 per cent said they thought a balanced budget was very important.
Despite the importance with which the public views a balanced budget, thre is a good deal of uncertainty among Americans concerning the current status of the federal budget.
Although 67 per cent know the budget is not currently balanced, 8 per cent think it is or have no idea whether it is or not (25 per cent).
Furthermore, among those who are aware the budget is running at a deficit, only a small minority have a good idea of how much this deficit, will be for the current fiscal year.
According to the Office of Management and Budget, the currently projected deficit for the fiscal year 1977 is $48.1 billion. Among those who know the budget is not balanced, only 4 per cent give a response reasonably close to the OMB figure, if estimates of from $40 billion to $55 billion are accepted as correct. Another 21 per cent think the amount will be between $1 billion and $35 billion, and 9 per cent give a figure below $1 billion. The remainder either overestimate the deficit (7 per cent think it will be more than $65 billion) or cannot offer an estimate (59 per cent).
The view that balancing the budget is very important is widespread and is the prevailing opinion not only nationwide but among all major population groups. However, some differences are apparent.
For example, women (68 per cent) are significantly more likely to hold this view than men (62 per cent). Similarly, those in the highest education and income categories are among those least likely to say a balanced budget is very important.
Predictably, Republicans (71 per cent) are more concerned with the importance of a balanced budget than are Democrats (61 per cent). Independents (67 per cent) tend to side with Republicans on the question.
The results reported today are based on personal interviews with 1,518 adults, 18 and older, taken in more than 300 scientifically taken in localities across the United States during the peroid July 8-11.