Americans of all political stripes are gloomy about the country’s future, according to a new Pew Research Center survey, with a crisis of confidence among Republican voters since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and taking office by President Joe Biden.
Pew’s latest survey released Wednesday interviewed 18,850 adults in 17 “advanced economies” between February 1 and May 26, 2021, including 2,596 Americans, weighted to be representative of the national population.
Sixty-eight percent of all Americans surveyed believe their children will be worse off than their parents, which is higher than the median of 64 percent in the 17 countries included in the research.
The sentiment is bipartisan, although there has been a stark change among conservative and moderate Republicans over the past year, most notably former President Donald Trump who has been removed from office.
Democrats have been increasingly positive about their children’s future since Biden took office, although the majority remain concerned. Between June and July last year, 76% of Liberal Democrats said their children would be worse off than them, falling to 70% in 2021.
The more conservative and moderate Democrats also turned slightly more positive, with the party who thought their children would be worse off falling from 66% to 58% over the same period.
There has been a significant pessimistic turn on the Republican side. Fifty-two percent of moderate Republican voters said in 2020 their children would be worse off, reaching 70 percent this year.
It was even more marked among the more conservative Republicans. In the summer of 2020, 36% of those polled said their children would be worse off. But that number jumped to 76 percent over the year, a swing of 40 percent.
Biden inherited the financial crisis from COVID-19, which has added to economic tensions existing since Trump’s tenure.
The former president’s tax cuts for wealthier Americans and businesses have inflated the national debt – despite his promises to eliminate it completely – while his trade disputes with China and the European Union weighed on US businesses.
Biden’s plan to “build back better” will have to overcome the dislocation of the pandemic, which precipitated the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s and one of the largest transfers of wealth in history, as the the rich got richer and the most vulnerable struggled to survive.
America’s 713 billionaires increased their combined wealth by some $ 1.8 trillion during the pandemic, according to Forbes. This represents a 55% increase in overall wealth and a third of all billionaire earnings over the past 31 years.
Pew found that 71% of all American adults polled viewed the national economy as bad, up from 69% in the summer 2020 survey. This year’s figure is the most negative since the 2011 Pew poll.
The economy is the cornerstone of any president’s legacy. Trump’s time in power will be remembered for the economic collapse that accompanied the pandemic, as well as for his administration’s confused and ineffective response to the crisis.
The US economy is showing signs of better health. The United States added 850,000 new jobs in June, while wages rose 0.3% for the month and 3.6% year-on-year. The unemployment rate in June unexpectedly rose to 5.9% from an estimated 5.6%, but it remains well short of the pandemic 14.8 percent peak April 2020.
The economy grew at a rate of 6.4% in the first three months of this year, with economists predicting growth of up to 7% for the remainder of 2021. It would be the strongest annual performance in about 70 years.
But this performance does not seem to translate into a positive sentiment among voters. While Democrats are slowly coming back, according to Pew’s numbers, Republicans are going the other way.
The economic outlook for voters appears to be closely tied to political identity, especially among Republicans, regardless of the data. These identities are becoming more and more separate and antagonistic.
Biden will have to tackle the real economic issues facing the country and the partisan divide among voters. Indeed, an April poll showed that up to 70% of Republicans don’t even believe the president won the last election.