The Economic Anxiety Hypothesis has Become Absurd(er)

I am old enough to remember when many very serious people ascribed the rise of Donald Trump to economic anxiety. The hypthesis never fit the facts (his supporters had higher incomes on average than Clinton’s) but it has become absurd. The level of self reported economic anxiety is extraordinarily low

Gallup reports “Record High optimism about Personal Finances in U.S.” with 74% predicting they will be better off next year.

Yet now the Democratic party has an insurgent candidate candidate in the lead. I hasten to stress that I am not saying Sanders supporters have much in common with Trump supporters (young vs old, strong hispanic support vs they hate Trump etc etc etc). But both appeal to anger and advocate a radical break with business as usual. Both reject party establishments. Also Warren if a little bit less so.

Trump’s 2016 angry supporters still support him *and* they are still angry. He remains unpopular in spite of an economy performing very well (and perceived to be performing very well).

Whatever is going on in 2020, it sure isn’t economic anxiety.

Yet there is clearly anger and desire for radical change.

I don’t pretend to understand it, but I think it probably has a lot to do with relative economic performance and increased inequality. I can’t understand why the reaction of so many Americans to this would be to hate immigrants and vote for Trump, but, then I don’t watch Fox News.

One other thing which it isn’t is rejection of the guy who came before Trump. Obama has a Real Clear Politics average favorable rating of 59% and unfavorable of 36.1 % vastly vastly better than any currently active politician. (Sanders is doing relatively very well at net -2.7 compared to Obama’s + 22.9) He is not rejected. He is not considered a failure. Yet only a small majority is interested in any sort of going back to the way things were.

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