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Financial Planning > College Planning > Student Loan Debt

Who's Doing Better, Who Isn't Ahead of 2020 Election

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A year out from the 2020 U.S. presidential election, average Americans and experts disagree on key economic issues that will play out in coming months, according to new polling by Bankrate.

The two groups are at odds on the state of Americans’ finances since the last election and whether the current White House occupant, or any president for that matter, should be credited for the recent record economic expansion.

SSRS conducted a telephone poll on its dual-frame bilingual Omnibus survey platform in early September among 982 English-speaking and 35 Spanish-speaking respondents. SSRS polled eight economic experts by email from Aug. 26 to Sept. 11.

Notwithstanding the recent period of economic expansion, 46% of respondents said their financial situation had stayed about the same since President Donald Trump took office in 2017, and another 21% said their finances were in worse shape.

The polled experts maintained that Americans’ financial situations should have actually improved since the last election, but just 32% of ordinary folks agreed with them.

“As Americans become more focused on the presidential campaign and as a Democratic nominee emerges, our survey results appear to be a mixed bag for President Trump,” Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst and member of the expert panel, said in a statement.

“While more individuals say their personal finances are better than worse since his election, voters are pressing for action on health care.”

Fifty-four percent of Republican respondents said their finances had improved over the past three years, 39% said their finances have stayed the same and only 7% said they had gotten worse.

Democrats’ and Independents’ responses were more evenly split. Twenty-one percent of the former and 24% of the latter said their finances had improved, 47% and 50% said their financial situation was the same, and 30% and 23% said their finances were worse off.

Women were less likely than men to say their finances had improved, and were likelier than men to say their finances had stayed the same or gotten worse.

The survey found that personal finance gains had disproportionately favored higher-earning Americans, with 84% of households bringing in $75,000 a year or more saying their finances had improved or stayed the same, but only 66% of households earning under $30,000 a year reporting the same.

Key Issues in 2020 

Asked which financial issues would influence voters in the 2020 election, respondents pointed to three that stood out: health care, employment and taxes. Housing affordability crept into the top three for some key demographic groups.

Expert panelists agreed on health care and employment, but put foreign trade in the third spot.

“Health care has become a critically important issue for Americans because of cost and access,” Hamrick said. “As a sector, health care now comprises about one-fifth of the nation’s economy. And this issue is set to become increasingly important as the U.S. population ages.”

Here is how key demographic and political groups ranked issues that will be important to voters next year:

  • Women: health care, employment, housing, taxes, foreign trade, student loan debt, stock market
  • Men: health care, employment, taxes, housing, foreign trade, stock market, student loan debt
  • Millennials: employment, health care, housing, taxes, foreign trade, student loan debt, stock market
  • Gen Xers: health care, employment, taxes, housing, foreign trade, student loan debt, stock market
  • Baby Boomers: health care, employment, taxes, housing, foreign trade, student loan debt, stock market
  • Republicans: employment, health care, taxes, housing, foreign trade, stock market, student loan debt
  • Democrats: health care, employment, housing, taxes, foreign trade, student loan debt, stock market

Who Gets the Credit?

Thirty-two percent of respondents credited the incumbent president for the most recent economic expansion, while just 13% of experts agreed. Twenty-seven percent of Americans credited former President Barack Obama, and 25% of experts agreed.

One in five Americans and a quarter of the experts said the two presidents should be credited equally.

Neither Trump nor Obama should claim responsibility for the economic expansion, according to 17% of respondents and more than twice as many experts.

“Amid signs the U.S. economy may have peaked, Americans’ collective focus on the job market presents risks for President Trump if a significant slowdown emerges,” Hamrick said.


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