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Poll: Despite downturn, more voters say their financial situation is as good or better than four years ago

(President Trump, left, speaking in Arizona, September 14, 2020. Former VP Joe Biden speaking in Florida September 15, 2020. Credit, Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY – We’ve heard it for many years… “It’s the economy, stupid!”  Historically, if voters feel the economy is suffering, it’s hard for an incumbent president seeking reelection to clear that hurdle.  So, how do most people think the economy is doing?  A new poll shows many voters feel the economy isn’t doing as badly as others may expect. 

Back in January, before COVID-19 shut everything down, President Trump was bullish on the country’s strong economy.  He told an audience at a campaign rally in Ohio that the U.S. was the envy of every country in the world.

President Trump said, “As we begin the new year, our economy is booming, wages are soaring, workers are thriving and America’s future has never, ever, looked brighter.” 

However, when the coronavirus hit American shores, the economy took a major downturn.  So, the question, as President Ronald Reagan famously asked, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Researchers at Bankrate.com asked over a thousand people across the country to compare their financial situation now to how it was when President Trump took office.  Is it better, worse, or about the same?

One young man taking part in his first presidential election tells KSL, “I’ve stayed working, so it didn’t really affect me.”  Another man says, “I’ve actually been working more, so, technically ‘better,’ but once things settle, it will go back to the same.”

Other Utahn’s aren’t faring as well.

“For us, our financial situation is worse.  I’m from a single-parent home.  The stimulus, for me, was not a lot to get us by,” one woman says.

So, who believes things are better, and who says things are getting worse?  Analysts found that the largest group, 40% of people polled, say their financial picture was roughly the same and 26% said things had improved.  Another 25%  said their financial situation is worse and a small percentage responded they didn’t know.

Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick says the number break down predictably along party and economic lines.

“People who tended to say that they were better were male, white, Republican, college grads, baby boomers and those that made $80 thousand a year, or more.  Those who tended to say they were doing worse tended to be Black, female, in lower-income groups, and more often, Democrat,” Hamrick says.

Plus, people in lower-income brackets are more likely to work in fields that were more negatively impacted by the economic shutdown.  Hamrick says the leisure, hospitality and retail industries, where many people from low-income families work, were thrashed by the shutdown.

Researchers also asked who deserves the credit for the decade-long economic expansion – President Trump or President Obama?  Although more financial experts credited President Obama with the expansion, more everyday citizens give it to President Trump.  The survey shows 32% of people polled believe President Trump deserves the credit, while 27 believe it should go to President Obama, 20% believe they deserve equal praise, and 17% say neither one deserves it.

There are signs of economic growth in the past few months.  Hamrick says there were significant gains in the GDP this last quarter, and unemployment is down from a few months ago.

He says, “We lost 22 million jobs [since March] and we have recovered about half of those jobs.”

However, when the year is over, Hamrick says it’s likely the GDP will be down compared to last year.


Your Voice, Your Vote | 2020 Election Guide