NationalStacy M. Brown

Economy and Race Relations Seen as Growing Concerns Ahead of Election

As President Donald Trump flip-flops on whether he would back a new stimulus proposal to help stabilize America’s increasingly fragile financial, consumer and business markets — and provide a lifeline to struggling Americans — the latest Gallup poll reveals that the economy remains a major concern among voters ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

Nine in 10 respondents identified the economy as extremely or very important to their vote.

The poll, released on Oct. 5, listed national security and terrorism as the next biggest concern (83 percent), followed by education (82 percent), healthcare (80 percent), crime (79 percent), the COVID-19 response (77 percent), and race relations (76 percent).

Gallup has surveyed Americans’ “most important concerns” since 1939. The survey became monthly in 2001.

“It is not surprising that voters overall rate the economy as the most important issue impacting their vote for president this year given the fragile state of the U.S. economy and their tendency historically to prioritize it and other issues such as national security and education,” Gallup pollsters observed.

In an earlier June 4 Gallup survey, 19 percent of Americans named race relations as the nation’s top problem in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

At just below 20 percent, Gallop’s June 4 demarcation of the nation’s pulse on the state of race and race relations in America reflects the largest number of Americans sharing concerns over the racial divide since the height of the civil rights struggle in July 1968. The July 1968 survey results were reported was less than 90 days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4 of that year.

“Everything else being equal; however, the historical record predicts that race will eventually fall back into its latent status, scoring relatively few mentions as a top-of-mind issue,” Dr. Frank Newport, a Gallup senior scientist, wrote.

“This exemplifies the substantial challenge facing leaders who are seeking significant and lasting change in the nation’s race situation. The less top of mind race is as a major problem; presumably, the less likely politicians are going to feel pressure to take action.”

A separate poll conducted by D.C.-based financial website WalletHub took a deep dive into which political party is best for the country.

The poll revealed that overall the economy had performed best under a Democratic presidency and Republican Congress.

In the past 70 years, the real Gross Domestic Product has grown fastest under Democratic control of both the executive and legislative branches of government, at an average of 4.22 percent per year, and most slowly under a Democratic presidency and divided Congress, at an average of 2.04 percent per year, the WalletHub survey found.

Despite Trump’s seeming obsession with the stock market, Wall Street has performed best under a Democratic presidency and Republican Congress. The S&P 500 produced an average annual return of 16.22 percent, and worst under a Republican presidency and Democratic Congress, with an average yearly return of 4.51 percent.

Further, as stimulus talks stall and Trump throws cold water on negotiations, the annual unemployment rate change has had the highest decrease (0.85 percent, on average) under a Democratic presidency and divided Congress.

It had the highest increase (0.26 percent, on average) under a Republican presidency and Democratic Congress.

According to the survey, the annual poverty rate change has had the highest decrease (0.66 percent, on average) under a Democratic presidency and Republican Congress and the highest increase (0.05 percent, on average) under a Republican presidency and Democratic Congress.

The survey also found that the change in annual national debt as a percentage of GDP (adjusted for inflation) has had the highest decrease (0.76 percent, on average) under a Democratic presidency and Republican Congress and the highest increase (2.82 percent) under a Democratic presidency and divided Congress.

“I think [Democratic presidential nominee] Joe Biden will be better for the economy for two reasons. First, he is actually listening to real economists, as far as policymaking is concerned,” said Shantanu Bagchi, a WalletHub expert and associate professor in the Department of Economics at Towson University in Maryland. “He understands the key issues why so many Americans have been cut out from their fair share of economic prosperity and the promise of hard work as a means to a better life.

“Second, he is predictable and has a comprehensive vision of how to move the economy forward for everyone. Trump, unfortunately, is more concerned with personal wealth accumulation using the presidency as a tool,” Bagchi continued. “He lacks a basic understanding of economics, does not listen to experts, and has no vision of the economy apart from how he and others like him can personally benefit from it.”

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