The economy is strengthened through traditional measures. Inflation has slowed down considerably. Wages are increasing. Unemployment is near its lowest level in half a century. Job satisfaction has increased.
Yet Americans don’t necessarily see it that way. In a recent New York Times/Siena College survey of voters in six swing states, eight in 10 said the economy was fair or poor. Only 2 percent said it was excellent. Majorities across every group of Americans, across gender, race, age, education, geography, income, and party, had an unfavorable view.
What makes the disconnect even more confusing is that people are not acting the way they do when they think the economy is bad. They are spending, vacationing and changing jobs just like they do when they feel like it’s good.
“People say, ‘Economists don’t know why we’re unhappy? Just look at the prices!'” said Betsy Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan who served in the Obama administration. “We’re looking at the prices, and we Wondering why you’re buying so much stuff?”
“People have faced higher prices and it’s difficult, but it’s not clear why people haven’t cut back,” he said of a phenomenon known as manifest priority, “They have spent as if they see nothing but good times ahead of them. Then why are his actions so inconsistent with his words?”
This question has recently given rise to several attempts to explain the breakup, which could be important in the 2024 election. In the survey, 59 percent of voters said Donald J. Mr Trump would do a better job on the economy, while 37 per cent said Mr Biden would do the same.
We recalled voters who said the economy was “bad” or “only fair” to find out why they felt that way, while metrics, and often their personal finances, tell a different story.
many said His own financial situation was quite good – They had jobs, they had homes, they made ends meet. But they felt as if they were “just getting by,” and “there was nothing left.” Many people felt angry and concerned about prices, the pandemic and politics.
Economists speculate that those emotions are driving attitudes about the economy, sounding a lot like their colleagues in another branch of the social sciences, psychology.
“The pandemic shattered many illusions of control,” Professor Stevenson said. “I wonder how much more aware it has made us all about the places where we don’t have control over prices, over the housing market.”
Inflation weighed heavily on voters – almost all of them mentioned frustration over the cost of things they regularly purchase.
“Gas prices are obscene,” said Leslie Lynn, 47, a restaurant manager in Carson City, Nev. “I see mayonnaise for $7. It’s like, what’s this even a thing? So yeah, the economy is not very good.”
Claxton, Ga. Dillon Nettles, 23, of Washington, D.C., had just stopped at Chick-fil-A when he answered our call. “What used to cost you seven bucks for a sandwich and a large fry and sweet tea is now $14,” he said.
Consumer prices rose 3.2 percent in October from a year earlier, with the year-on-year inflation rate expected to fall by more than 8 percent in mid-2022. But Harvard economist Lawrence Katz said, “Inflation casts a long shadow on how people evaluate things.” Some may expect prices to return to where they were before – something that rarely happens (and deflation can often portend economic disaster).
Moreover, economists said, wages have increased along with prices. real average earnings The increase for full-time workers is slightly higher than at the end of 2019, and for many low-income people, their increase has exceeded inflation. But economists say it’s more common for people to think about prices at face value rather than relative to their incomes. illusion of wealth,
“Everyone thinks a wage increase is something they’re entitled to, and price increases are imposed on them by the economy,” Professor Katz said.
Young people — who were key to President Biden’s victory in 2020, but new polling shows less support for him — had concerns specific to their stage of life. In the survey, 93 percent of them gave an unfavorable rating to the economy, higher than any other age group.
Some campaign promises aimed at him, such as student loan forgiveness and subsidies for child care, were struck down by the Supreme Court or did not pass in Congress. Feeling like it’s harder to achieve things that their parents did, like buying a house. there are houses less economical compared to the height of the 2006 bubble, and less than half One of the Americans can afford it.
Jaden Grimes, 21, of Avondale, Arizona, is trying to get his life off the ground after graduating from college, working a temp job while he looks for a better job and his own place to live. Used to be. “It is likely that half my income will be spent on rent,” he said. “I was really hoping for that student loan forgiveness.”
Voters who have already achieved some indicators of economic success, such as advancing in their careers or owning a home, also felt stuck, with little money left to spend or make life changes Was. Yet overall, economists said, the data shows that more people are leaving jobs to get better starts, moving to more desirable locations because they can work remotely, and starting new businesses. .
“Even though you hear all this talk — we added 100,000 new jobs — it literally means nothing to me,” said Stephen Blank, 39, who recently moved to Fayetteville, N.C., from Wisconsin. “It’s all fake when it comes to how people really are.”
He said he makes about $80,000 while serving in the military and working as a DoorDash deliverer, yet he feels he had more money to spend a decade ago, when his pay grade was two grades lower.
“I’m not buying fancy cars, I’ve got a really good interest rate on my house, we have kids but they’re not worth that much,” he said. “But we’ve actually got the budget. There is nothing left to invest in the future.”
Nevada restaurant manager Ms. Lynn is up for a promotion and has her own home at a good mortgage rate. Yet there are job opportunities in San Diego of interest, and she is unhappy that she cannot afford the high cost of living there, or purchase a new home at the high interest rates.
Professor Stevenson said people always face financial barriers such as those described by Ms Lynn. For example, in a slow job market, it’s harder to change jobs – it’s easier now, but housing is more expensive.
Still, the uncertainty about the future that Mr. Blank and Ms. Lin shared permeates the narratives of many voters, clouding their economic outlook.
“The level of volatility that we have experienced from various events – from the pandemic, from inflation – there is no confidence that even though objectively good things are going on, this will continue,” Professor Katz said.
“When things are going good, it means the rich people are getting richer and we’re all second,” said Manuel Zimberoff, 26, a manufacturing engineer in Philadelphia. “And if things are going bad, the rich people are still getting richer, and we’re all worse off.”
He says Mr Biden’s pro-union stance and investments in clean energy and infrastructure have benefited the economy. He would vote for her, even though his ideal candidate would be a socialist: “Bernie Sanders, but 40 years younger and gay.”
Ricky Glenn, Commerce, Ga. A 35-year-old police sergeant in the U.S. probably won’t vote until Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should not be on the ballot. They bought a house during the pandemic, but don’t really care if its value is increasing – they care about their rising property taxes. “I feel like the families, it’s lower class,” he said. “Families just passing through.”
Economic difficulties are greater for those who do not have a college degree, who are the majority American. They earn less, receive fewer benefits from employers and have more physically demanding jobs.
Suzanne Haberkorn, 41, a bank teller in Waukesha, Wisconsin, fears she won’t be able to advance beyond her high school education because of health problems that make it difficult to work. She left her job at Walmart because it was too physical, but her current job is mentally tough. She’s been denied disability because she works, she said: “They’re pretty much like, you need to be homeless and unemployed and broke to get help.”
roughly for two decadefavoritism has increased has been correlated With thoughts about the economy: research has shown People give the economy a worse rating when their party is not in power. Nearly every Republican in the survey gave the economy an unfavorable rating, and 59 percent of Democrats did so.
Steven Cabrera, 35, who works for the Army in Phoenix, was among the 57 percent of voters who said economic issues were a bigger priority than social issues. But when asked about them, she was more interested in talking about other things: the visibility of transgender people, New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and, most of all, the war.
He promoted American funding to Ukraine and the Middle East. Is this why our economy is “slowing down”, he wanted to know? He wasn’t sure, but he thought it was possible. He said he plans to vote for “a Republican, any Republican.” “The Democrats have disappointed me.”