It’s always the economy, stupid

I polled my panel of 500 voters on the economy, just days before the news of the coronavirus broke. At that time, they all had similar responses to the following seven statements. How would you answer them? True or false?

  1. I personally know the benefits of a good economy.
  2. Millionaires should pay more taxes.
  3. I think I am paying my fair share of taxes.
  4. Amazon should pay more taxes.
  5. I am worried about the size of the US deficit.
  6. The economy only works for big business and the rich.
  7. My health care costs have increased dramatically over the past year.

Over 85% of respondents, from all political backgrounds, gave the same answer to these questions. They answered “true” to all of the above questions except the last two, which 85% said were false.

It is striking how much most people say they benefit from the current economy. Phil, a Republican from Boise, Idaho, reports that “My salary is up, my retirement funds look good, and my home’s value is up. And our local economy is doing well, with tons of jobs available for anyone looking for work. Alexis, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, adds, “At State College, the economy is booming. There are three new luxury high-rise buildings being built and new stores seem to be popping up every week, with job advertisements at nearly every store. And even Diana, an Iowa Republican who lives near the poverty line, sees the benefits. She said, “For me, some of my monthly medical supplies have declined significantly over the past year. Some food prices have gone down and, for a while, gasoline prices have gone down. Lots of sales seem to take place, so when and if I buy items, I get them at a lower price. “

Deficits weigh on voters. Andrew, an independent from Wisconsin, said, “I was disappointed when the Republicans, the party that boasts of being financially responsible, increased our deficit and therefore the rate at which the national debt is increasing.” Andrew also expressed concern because he thinks we are borrowing from China to finance the deficit. “It looks like we’re just trying to cede superpower status to China.”

And there is hardly a voter in my panel who thinks he should pay more taxes.

On the other hand, Republicans and Democrats are divided on three of the true / false issues.

  1. I fear the economy will take a bad turn over the next nine months.
  2. I give former President Obama a lot of the credit for the good economy.
  3. Income inequality is a huge problem in the United States.

Democrats are more concerned about the future, credit Obama with at least some of the good economy, and think income inequality is a major problem. Republicans tend to be optimistic about the future (as long as Trump remains in power), give Trump all the credit for the current economy, and are indifferent to the gap between rich and poor.

“My IRA account has grown with the trajectory of the stock market,” said Catherine, a Democrat from Massachusetts, “but I’m afraid of investing for the long term because I fear the volatility and collapse of the market.” Lawrence, a Boston Democrat, added, “We are creating a nation of tenants, who live paycheck to paycheck, with little savings for retirement and unable to afford a major emergency expense. the surface of our economy and our society.

Republicans are more optimistic and believe that income inequality is solvable. Peter from Illinois doesn’t see wealth as a zero-sum game. “As the 1 percent gets richer, that doesn’t mean they take it out of the pockets of the bottom 50 percent.”

This kind of voter sentiment raises a key question for Democrats. In the absence of a recession or a sharp drop in the stock market, most electoral models, such as those in Moody’s analysis, predict a victory for Trump. Clearly, if the market downturn from the coronavirus continues, all bets could be off. For now, Democrats are challenged to convincingly respond to a president whose message is: You may not like me, but you have to vote for me because if you elect the other guys, say goodbye. to the economy you love!

What will not work in a general election is communicating that the economy is bad or that it only works for those at the top because that just does not match the experience of the most voters. More so, a message about a complete overhaul of our health care system – or a dramatic increase in taxes to pay more fees – is unlikely to generate significant support.

What could resonate? Democrats could win, not by denying that we have a strong economy, but by showing how our good economy could be even better if wealthy individuals and businesses paid their fair share, just like ordinary Americans do – or our good economy. good economy will not last. forever, because people borrow too much at high interest rates and pay more and more for rent. They could also highlight how dependent our good economy is on a healthy global economy – with strong markets for American goods and reliable sources of vital raw materials and supplies, and with a global commitment to work together on everything, from diseases to climatic problems.

Clearly, a continuing fear of coronaviruses, with its negative impact on the economy, potentially eliminates Trump’s most powerful talking point. And above and beyond economics is the critical reminder that we all experience how interconnected our world is – an important talking point for Democrats.

Regardless, it’s clear that when it comes to economics, Democrats have yet to create a message – or plan – that will motivate voters to change the way they think about their wallets. Perception is everything, and now, if it’s the economy, stupid, it’s time for a candidate to get smart.

Diane Hessan is an entrepreneur, author and president of C Space. She has had a weekly conversation with 500 voters from all political backgrounds since December 2016. Follow her on Twitter @DianeHessan. See his methodology on

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