Less than one-quarter, or 23%, of consumers recently polled indicated that opting for foreclosure is justifiable when a borrower is underwater, owing more on a home than its worth, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC). This idea of strategic default, when a borrower with the ability to pay chooses not to remain current on payments, was unacceptable to another 15% of survey respondents who said no circumstances justify walking away from the financial obligation. "Taken together, the NFCC survey data brings us some encouraging news: consumers still place a priority on making their mortgage payment, less than one-fourth think that defaulting on a mortgage is justifiable simply because the property is underwater, and a significant number take mortgage obligations so seriously that they find no acceptable reason to default on a home loan," said NFCC spokesperson Gail Cunningham, in an e-mail. NFCC noted that "the overwhelming majority" consider mortgage payments a priority, based on a survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted in March by Harris Interactive. When asked to choose between mortgages and credit cards, 91% of respondents indicated they would pay their mortgage first. The survey is supported by recent findings from credit-rating agency Standard & Poor's and national credit bureau Experian, who saw monthly default rates fall for first and second mortgages and rise for bank card loans in April. "Americans continue to prioritize their obligation to service their mortgage loan, and this is indeed good news for homeowners, mortgage lenders and the housing market overall," said NFCC's Cunningham. Write to Diana Golobay.