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How’s the economy doing? Your answer may depend on whether you’re Republican or Democrat

Even with unemployment at a 50-year low and the stock market continuing its historic 10-year bull run, a Pew Research Center survey says many people remain unconvinced

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By Andrew Keshner


Joe Raedle/Getty Images
The majority of people in a new Pew Research Center report says the economy is mostly helping the rich.

Today’s economy is working for the rich while doing little for everyone else and even hurting them.

That’s according to a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. Even with unemployment at a 50-year low and the stock market continuing its historic 10-year bull run, many people told Pew, a nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C., that they aren’t seeing any benefits. Pew conducted an online poll in September 2019 with a nationally representative sample of 6,878 people.

Opinion: Why raising taxes on the rich isn’t so crazy

Some 69% said the economy helps the wealthy, 58% believes it hurts the middle class and 64% said it hurts the poor, and 46% saying the current financial conditions hurt them and their family. U.S. median annual household income is $63,179, up from $62,626 in 2018, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, while income inequality is also at its highest point in more than 50 years.

Republicans, on the whole, say the economy is faring well, but Democrats are not convinced.

Seven in 10 upper-income Americans — who earn at least $120,400 per year — told pollsters the current economic conditions are excellent or good. By contrast, 60% of middle-income Americans, making between $40,100 and $120,400 a year, agree with that statement. However, only 41% of lower-income participants said economic conditions are good or excellent.

American taxpayers had an eventful first year under the Trump administration’s tax reforms; some people swung from refunds to bills while others saw their refunds climb. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidates like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders say their proposals to tax the super-rich would underwrite large-scale social programs.

A separate poll from Fidelity Investments painted a far rosier picture. Over 80% of the people surveyed in that survey say they’re in a similar or better financial spot than last year. The most popular 2020 money resolutions are to save more (53%) and reduce debt (51%), according to Fidelity Investments’ poll of 3,012 people.

Cracks in the party lines on the economy?

Like the Pew results, others have shown mixed views on the economy, typically falling along political lines: Approximately 43% of lower-income Republicans say economic conditions are “fair or poor” and 57% say conditions are “good or excellent.” On average, 25% of all Republicans said conditions are “fair or poor,” and 75% said the economy is “thriving.”

Democrats had a more pessimistic outlook on the country’s immediate future: 59% of all Democrats say economic conditions are “fair or poor,” and 66% of low-income Democrats agreed with the statement. Forty-five percent of upper-income Democrats say the country’s financial picture is “fair or poor,” while just 55% overall said it’s looking “quite good.”

Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.

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