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A majority of Americans (62 percent) don’t believe their financial situation has improved since the last presidential election, in 2016, according to survey released Wednesday, less than two weeks before the midterms.
Despite a strengthening economy and a 3.7 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in nearly 50 years, the traditional indicators of economic health aren’t providing the real picture of how individual Americans are feeling, said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate, the financial services company that conducted the survey.
“There is distance between what the broad brushstroke economic data tells us and the experience of individuals in our country,” he said. “It doesn't align perfectly with the experience of each and every person.”
Of those not satisfied with their finances, less than one-third said they blamed President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress, according to the survey.
The lowest earners may be feeling the brunt the most. Of those making less than $30,000 per year, 78 percent said their financial situation has not improved, while 27 percent said their finances have worsened since the last election.
“The rising tide has certainly not lifted all boats,” Hamrick said. “There is the risk that individuals see those headlines [about personal income tax cuts] and say, 'Wait a minute, that isn't my experience.'”
Americans who meet the retirement age of 65 and older were also pessimistic, with 76 percent reporting that they feel their financial situation has not improved since the last election.
Meanwhile, 54 percent of people earning more than $75,000 per year said they are feeling better about their finances, with 26 percent even saying they had improved in the past two years, according to the survey.
The survey was conducted from Sept. 25-30 among 1,001 respondents and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.72 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.
Hamrick said there may be two key reasons why higher earners are feeling more optimistic.
“With the broad improvement in the stock market, wealthier individuals tend to be more highly invested,” he said. “We also know the benefits of the personal income tax cut have benefited higher income individuals.”
Ahead of the midterm elections, a poll from the Pew Research Center found that 74 percent of Americans say the economy is a “very important” issue as they head to the polls. But no party seemed to have a clear edge. When Pew asked whether Republicans or Democrats would do a better job of handling the economy, respondents were pretty split. Democrats received 41 percent of the vote, while Republicans had 40 percent.
To sum it all up: Everyone agrees the economy is important, but there appears to be no strong preference as to which party can improve it.