I blame the media for the results of this poll showing that people don't understand the fiscal cliff or the deficit. In my experience, they're far more clueless on the deficit and don't know the difference between the deficit and the debt.
Nearly 60 percent of Americans think the deficit will stay the same or grow higher if we careen off the cliff. 28 percent "don't know." They're all totally wrong. If we economy slides over the hypothetical cliff, the deficit will go down. Way down. The economy will be potentially hurt by it, but the deficit will go down.
For your friends who don't understand the difference between the deficit and debt, here's a brief guide. The budget deficit is the difference between the money spent by the government in a given year and the money it takes in via taxes, etc. The current deficit for 2012 is $1.1 trillion (and falling). The national debt is the amount of money we owe to creditors, both internally and externally. This includes bond-holders and, of course, the cumulative dollar amount of the annual deficits.
The more you know...