Americans have been feeling bad about their finances for years now. This is despite decreasing unemployment, growing GDP, and a climbing stock market. But feelings about money can often have little basis in financial fact, a point proven in a recent poll from Gallup.
The poll, released on Wednesday, shows that Republicans are feeling much rosier about their financial status, while Democrats are feeling much more grim since the election of Donald Trump. The swings in sentiment are both sudden and significant. For instance, in October of last year, only 34 percent of Republicans said they were feeling better about their financial situation. By February that share climbed to 77 percent. During that same period, Democrat’s perception about their financial situation declined, with only 43 percent saying that they were feeling better about their finances, down from 71 percent in October. That pattern—of significantly increasing optimism among people who lean toward the GOP and decreasing optimism among those who lean liberal—was apparent in just about every question that Gallup asked about personal finances.
There are plenty of reasons that Americans might have differing views about their financial status. On the one hand, the economy has been steadily strengthening for years now, unemployment is down, and the stock market has been on a relative upswing for some time. Even in a sluggish recovery, some households have been doing better and better. It’s also true that a lot of that economic improvement isn’t being felt by many workers: Wages have been relatively stagnant for years, and labor-force participation among men remains mysteriously low. All the while, the price for necessities, such as housing, has climbed. That’s enough to make the many Americans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck feel financially strapped. But while both viewpoints can be justified, it’s hard to justify a stark and sudden shift, positive or negative, about one’s personal finances in such a short period of time. Aside from continued improvement in the stock market, the economy hasn’t changed all that much between October and February. In fact, the only significant change has been who is sitting in the Oval office.