The need to cut the federal budget deficit should be the government’s top economic priority, according to a survey of CPAs.

The survey by the American Institute of CPAs found that the vast majority of the more than 1,700  CPAs polled are concerned that individuals and families will be affected most severely if policy makers are unable to reduce the federal debt. Fifty-four percent of the nation’s CPAs identified deficit reduction as the top economic priority for the United States in the online survey, ahead of creating jobs (23 percent), tax reform (18 percent) and ensuring the long-term stability of Social Security and Medicare (5 percent).

Asked how an inability to reduce the federal budget deficit is likely to be felt by their clients or company, hiring freezes (55 percent), reduced capital spending (53 percent), reduced benefits (52 percent) and job layoffs (52 percent) were chosen most frequently from a list of seven options.

“CPAs in communities large and small and from coast to coast are increasingly troubled by the government’s inability to come to grips with this economic calamity-in-the-making,” said AICPA president and CEO Barry Melancon in a statement. “Knowing what’s at stake, three-quarters of those taking part in our survey (76 percent) are sending a clear message to federal policy makers to deal with our debt crisis without delay. Fiscal responsibility is essential to our country’s economic sustainability.”

Asked what concerns them most about the federal budget deficit, 58 percent of the AICPA members cited its impact on our nation’s economy. Seven in 10 CPAs surveyed (73 percent) said individuals and families would be affected most severely if policymakers are unable to reduce the budget deficit. Another 14 percent pointed to small business as likely to be affected most severely.

Expressing concern about the growing federal debt and its impact on the long-term fiscal health of the U.S., the AICPA Board of Directors adopted a resolution last November underscoring the need to put America on a better economic path and supporting two non-partisan efforts, the Campaign to Fix the Debt and the Comeback America Initiative. Earlier in 2012, the AICPA developed What’s At Stake? A CPA’s Insights into the Federal Government’s Finances, a video designed to call attention to how and why the financial sustainability of the nation is at stake.