GOP nominee Donald Trump may be trailing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton in national polls of likely voters, but among one segment of the electorate, he leads by a wide margin: insurance and financial service professionals.

That is true, at least, on the narrow question regarding which of the leading party candidates is best positioned to steer the U.S. economy to long-term growth. In a September 2016 survey conducted by the Woodbridge Group of Companies of registered investment advisors and insurance sales professionals, a whopping 8 in 10 respondents (83 percent) flag the real estate magnate and TV celebrity as the best candidate for “fostering long-term growth and building a healthy U.S. economy.”

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Just 6 percent of advisors express more confidence in Hillary Clinton’s ability to grow the economy. The remainder of the advisors polled said neither candidate would benefit the country’s economic needs.

“Regardless of the election’s outcome, financial advisors who responded to our survey made themselves abundantly clear as to who they believe is best-suited to set the country on a path to economic vitality,” Woodbridge President and CEO Bob Shapiro said in a press statement. “Throughout the survey, we see the same economic themes repeated over and over again: job one for the new Administration has to be economic fixes.”

The Woodbridge poll contrasts with broader public opinion surveys about the candidates’ economic positions and skills. For example, WalletHub reported last month that Americans favor Hillary Clinton’s plan to tax the wealthy over Donald Trump’s tax plan by more than a two-to-one margin (68 percent vs. 32 percent).

The margin was similarly wide on the question of corporate taxes: More than 7 in 10 (71 percent) percent of respondents favor Clinton’s plan, as compared with 28.53 percent for Trump’s, when the name of the candidate proposing the plan is disclosed to the participant.

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The Woodbridge poll contrasts with broader public opinion surveys about the candidates’ economic positions and skills. (Photo: AP)

High-priority topics for the next debate

The Woodbridge Wealth survey found that 3 in 10 (31 percent) of respondents believe the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, finalized last April, is “important enough to warrant discussion at the next presidential debate.” Other topics that respondents said the candidates should address include:

    • The Dodd-Frank (Wall Street Reform) Act of 2010 (22 percent)

    • Social Security (15 percent) and

    • The Wall Street Reform Plan for a new 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act (12 percent).

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The survey also polled advisors as to alternative assets they most frequently recommend to affluent clients. By far the most popular of the vehicles is real estate at 64 percent. Also favored alternative solutions are:

    • real assets (28 percent)

    • hedge funds and private equity (6 percent each), and

    • venture capital (4 percent).

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More than 4 in 10 advisors (44 percent) said in the Woodbridge Wealth study that the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates by year-end 2016. (Photo: Thinkstock)

Fewer than 1 in 5 advisors (18 percent) said they don’t recommend alternative investments. Fifty-six percent said they plan to increase their clients’ allocations in 2017. However, 1 in 5 (19 percent) respondants will keep allocations at 2016 levels. Just 4 percent plan to decrease their clients’ exposure.

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Woodbridge Wealth, which specializes in commercial real estate-backed alternatives, favors the products in part because they’re subject to less market volatility and government regulations than conventional securities. The solutions also enjoy a lower “correlation of returns” (the degree to which two securities move in relation to one another) than other investment products.

Among the survey’s additional findings:

  • Forty-four percent of respondents said the Federal Reserve should raise interest rates by year-end 2016. Almost 4 in 10 (38 percent) said the Fed shouldn’t. Nearly 1 in 5 (17 percent) are undecided.

  • The first 100 days of the new administration should focus on curbing inflation and bolstering consumer and business spending (44 percent); national security issues (35 percent); making Washington more efficient, effective and accountable (12 percent); and immigration (6 percent).

  • 78 percent of respondents said that robo-advisors pose no threat to their practices.

  • Making changes to corporate tax rates will have the most beneficial impact on the economy (75 percent). Fewer respondents identify changes to capital gains tax (10 percent) and Social Security (8 percent).

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