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Portfolio > Economy & Markets

Economic Anxiety Peaks as Election Approaches

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Americans are on tenterhooks as the 2016 presidential election campaign draws to a close, anxiety about their personal economy causing many to lose sleep.

The latest Marketplace-Edison Research Poll found that Americans’ economic anxiety had increased over the past six months, and was up significantly from a year ago, owing to factors such as fear of losing a job and being able to pay for monthly expenses.

The two firms created the Economic Anxiety Index, a number on a scale from 0 to 100 calculated from answers to questions put to 1,036 respondents during the first week in October, about half online and half by telephone.

The index now stands at 36, up 20% from a year ago.

The survey found 30% of Americans were very fearful they would lose their job in the next six months, up from 10% last October. Thirty-nine percent said their personal financial situation caused them to lose sleep.

A quarter of respondents claimed they completely distrusted economic data put out by the federal government, including statistics on the unemployment rate, the number of jobs added and the amount of consumer spending. Forty-eight percent of Donald Trump supporters were in the distrust camp, compared with 5% of Hillary Clinton supporters.

Sixty-four percent of Americans reported feeling frequently or sometimes anxious about their financial situation. In contrast, only 34% said they felt financially secure.

Is the Economy ‘Rigged?’

Researchers asked survey respondents whether the economy was rigged in favor of certain groups. Sixty-two percent thought it was. The report said majorities of all demographic groups agreed, including Democrats, Republicans, Independents and all income levels.

The poll found a consensus as to who benefits from a rigged economy. A majority of respondents said the economy was rigged for the rich, politicians, banks and bank executives, and corporations.

However, Clinton and Trump supporters differed dramatically on how the rigged economic system favored other subgroups.

Sixty-six percent of Trump supporters pointed to people who receive government assistance, compared with 32% of Clinton supporters who did so. Sixty-two percent of Clinton supporters said the economy was rigged for whites, but only 21% of Trump supporters agreed.

Blue vs. Red

The survey found that 68% of Americans were either dissatisfied or angry with elected officials in Washington. At the same time, however, 52% approved of President Obama’s handling of the economy.

Americans can have their say at the polls on Nov. 8, yet they are divided on whether they can influence the government in Washington. Half of survey respondents said there was little people could do to influence the government, and half said those who were willing to try could do so.

Clinton supporters were more hopeful, with 59% saying they could influence the government if they made the effort. Only 44% of Trump supporters shared this sentiment.

According to the survey, dissatisfaction with Trump and Clinton has steadily increased over the past year as the nominees emerged from the primaries and the general election has taken shape. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the candidates for president, up from 35% in February, in the middle of the primary election season.

When asked to describe the presidential election, 71% of respondents agreed that the word “afraid” described it well. However, 55% thought the word “hopeful” also described it well.

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