US voters say they will consider economy when choosing between Biden and Trump

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“The economy controls everything,” said South Carolina sales executive Chris Stinson. “Hands down it’s what I’m most concerned about, and that’s what I’ll be thinking about when I vote this November.”

Stinson isn’t alone.

American voters are prioritizing the health of their wallets and pocketbooks with less than four months to go before Election Day.

A CNN poll last week showed that 36% of respondents said the economy is the most important issue in deciding how to vote. “Protecting democracy” ranked second.

“Who do I trust with the economy?” Stinson wondered aloud. “I’m undecided. Democrats seem proud to be anti-business, and pro-regulation, but [presumptive Republican nominee and former president Donald] Trump got us started down this path of devastating inflation when he introduced all that COVID stimulus.”

“What I know is all of these other issues Democrats like to talk about —things like hurting white men like me by adding regulations wherever they can — people don’t care about the health of the oceans or which gender uses which bathroom when they’re unemployed and can’t find a job,” Stinson told VOA.

That economic anxiety comes despite cooling inflation, a scorching-hot stock market, and a better-than-expected monthly jobs report showing American employers added 206,000 jobs in June.

Yet persisting economic concerns seem likely to impact this year’s presidential election. In a June survey by PBS News/NPR/Marist, 54% of registered voters polled said they believed Trump would best handle the economy, not President Joe Biden (45%).

Alabama Democratic voter Collins Pettaway said the economy “will play a major role in this election, as it so often does, and I have the utmost confidence President Biden will continue to manage the economy effectively, just like he did leading us out of the unprecedented pandemic and wrecked economy he inherited in his first term.” “

An anxious nation

A Pew Research Center poll from mid-May showed that only 23% of U.S. adults believe the economy is in excellent or good shape, down from 28% at the beginning of the year.

That change is mostly the result of Democratic voters, whose collective opinion has slipped to 37% — down seven percentage points since January.

“It’s impossible to deny the effects of inflation,” Carl Fink, a Democratic voter and father of three in New Orleans, Louisiana, told VOA. “Groceries, car insurance, entertainment — they’re all so much more expensive these days. But none of that compares to how much the cost of child care and a good school has increased in the four years since our first child was born. It’s so much tougher now.”

Just last week, the Federal Reserve reported to Congress that “inflation eased notably last year and has shown modest further progress so far this year.” The Fed says it’s just a matter of time before the pace of price increases settles back to where it was before the COVID-19 crisis.

But for many Americans who have suffered the fastest price increases since the early 1980s, talk of slowing inflation doesn’t improve their current financial situation.

“The economy is the key factor in this election because citizens like me can no longer afford what was once considered the basics of living in America,” said George Barisich, a fisherman and Republican voter from Chalmette, Louisiana.

“Every supply house, fuel dock, icehouse, mechanic,” he continued, “everything related to the fishing industry, and every other industry — they’re all going out of business. Diesel and gas prices have skyrocketed. I can’t make any money.”

“At least Trump is a businessman,” Barisich said. “I think he’ll be able to help us out.”

Looking through partisan glasses

In a period of increased partisanship, Cleveland State University associate professor of political science David Stack said voters cherry-pick economic indicators that best align with their political sentiments rather than with overall economic health.

“If you’re a Democrat, you point to the lowered unemployment rate and the rising stock market and you say, ‘Look at how Biden fixed Trump’s mess. He should be president,’” Stack told VOA. “But if you’re a Republican, you point to the rate of inflation and say, ‘See how Biden is screwing up the economy? Trump did better, so Trump should be president.’”

Stack said most Republicans believe the high unemployment rate at the end of Trump’s term was the result of the pandemic lockdown, whereas Democrats believe the stimulus package during COVID-19 resulted in a predictable spike in inflation.

What it means for November

Shane Finkelstein, a Democratic voter from New Orleans who lost his business during the pandemic and has now found work after two years of unemployment, said he is pleased with Biden on the economy.

“It’s one of the most important issues we face, and I think it’s also where Biden has done his strongest job,” Finkelstein said. “Inflation is a big problem, but it’s also usually the reflection of a strong economy. The reason it has been more intense this time is because of supply and demand issues during and post COVID.”

Maryland voter Nick Merson said he hopes other issues — such as gun control and access to abortion — will power Biden to a second term, even if the economy cannot.

“I think in any other election, current views around inflation and the economy would result in an easy win for Republicans,” Merson told VOA. “But Republicans also have the most toxic candidate in history.

“We don’t have a great one, either, but this election matters too much to sit out.”

Source: VOA