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Financial Planning > Behavioral Finance

Economic Anxiety Persists in Lead-Up to 2016 Elections

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Ahead of the 2016 presidential election, many Americans are losing sleep over concerns about advancing their careers, finding work if they lose their jobs, paying mortgages and making rent, according to a new poll.

Marketplace, a public radio program on business, and Edison Research, which provides political exit polling data for major media outlets, on Monday announced the first Economic Anxiety Index, based on a survey of 1,016 Americans 18 and older.

Among those interviewed:

  • 63% said they were sometimes or frequently anxious about their financial situation
  • 42% said they felt stuck in their current financial situation
  • 38% who had student loans did not think those loans were worth it
  • 28% reported losing sleep over their current financial situation

Researchers in early September conducted 515 online interviews and 501 interviews by telephone. Of the telephone interviews, 300 were via landline and 201 via mobile to achieve the proper proportion of coverage of households that did not have a landline.

Marketplace and Edison developed the new index, a scale from 0 to 100, from the responses to poll questions about respondents’ own financial situations, their fears about job security and their concerns about meeting their expenses.

The higher the number, the more economic stress someone is feeling.

The mean index score across all demographics was 31, though it varied widely among subgroups.  

Researchers found that looking past the much-talked-about gap between the 1% and everyone else to differences among the 99% pointed up more telling divisions, including between salaried and hourly workers.

Thirty-two percent of hourly workers said their financial situation caused them to lose sleep, compared with 17% among those who were paid a salary.

Similarly, 43% of hourly workers said they felt stuck, while only 21% of their salaried counterparts reported feeling that way.

The Economic Anxiety Index scores of the two groups reflected those differences. Hourly workers had a mean index of 39, compared with 26 for salaried workers.

“This Anxiety Index confirmed something that we’ve seen in our reporting over the years: The economy is personal,” Deborah Clark, Marketplace vice president and executive producer, said in a statement.

“No matter what the jobs reports, housing index or other indicators say, the numbers that matter most are those that hit closest to home”

It is unclear how individual fears will influence voters in 2016. Marketplace and Edison Research said they would release the index periodically throughout the election cycle.

“As the election nears and we conduct additional polling, it will be interesting to see how these Anxiety Index numbers correlate with Americans’ political choices,” Clark said.

Notwithstanding the deep anxiety Americans across demographic groups felt, as reflected in the survey, they remained optimistic that hard work was more important than luck in getting ahead and that the American Dream was still attainable.

Seventy-two percent of respondents believed that they had a fair opportunity to achieve the life they hoped for.

— Check out Why the Fed Should Raise Interest Rates This Year: UBS Economist Drew Matus  on ThinkAdvisor.


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