Analysis: Pinched Pocketbooks; Do Average Americans Spot Something that Most Economists Miss?

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

03/28/2006 - Why aren't Americans happier about their economy? As Pew and other surveys continue to show, public sentiments about the economy remain far gloomier than at the start of the century, when seven-in-ten Americans (71%) told a January 2000 Gallup poll that they judged economic conditions in the country to be good or excellent. In contrast, at the start of 2006 just 34% of the public offered such a positive view of the national economy.

Analyses of Pew surveys have shown that, in contrast to the 1990's, a huge partisan gap now divides Americans in their judgments of the national economy. Over the past five years, Republicans, Democrats and independents have looked at the same economic landscape, yet they come to different conclusions. Most Republicans see a rosy picture; Democrats and, increasingly independents, take a darker view of the economy generally, and, particularly, of the economy's most salient signal - jobs.

One explanation for such an extraordinary disparity is that steadfast Republican support of President Bush and his policies carries over into judgments about the larger economy, while staunch and growing opposition to Bush among Democrats leads to a gloomy view of the economy. Still, it seems unlikely that partisanship would suddenly emerge as the single most important correlate of confidence in the nation's economy. Other presidents, Clinton in particular, have also engendered strong partisan responses, but the evidence shows little hint of disparate partisan views of the economy as a consequence.

Read the full analysis Pinched Pocketbooks; Do Average Americans Spot Something that Most Economists Miss? on the Pew Research Center Web site.

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