Sunday, June 23, 2024

By traditional measures, the economy is strong. Inflation has slowed significantly. Wages are increasing. Unemployment is near a half-century low. Job satisfaction is up.Yet Americans don’t necessarily see it that way. In the recent New York Times/Siena College poll of voters in six swing states, eight in 10 said the economy was fair or poor. Just 2 percent said it was excellent. Majorities of every group of Americans — across gender, race, age, education, geography, income and party — had an unfavorable view.To make the disconnect even more confusing, people are not acting the way they do when they believe the economy is bad. They are spending, vacationing and job-switching the way they do when they believe it’s good.

“People say, ‘Economists don’t know why we’re unhappy? Just look at the prices!’” said Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the University of Michigan who worked in the Obama administration. “We’re looking at the prices, and we’re wondering, why are you buying so much stuff?”
“People have faced higher prices and that is difficult, but that doesn’t explain why people have not cut back,” she said of a phenomenon known as revealed preference. “They have spent as if they see nothing but good times in front of them. So why are their actions so out of whack with their words?”
The question has led to a variety of recent attempts to explain the disconnect, which could be pivotal in the 2024 election. In the poll, 59 percent of voters said Donald J. Trump would do a better job on the economy, compared with 37 percent of those who said Mr. Biden would.W>
e called back voters who said the economy was “poor” or “only fair” to find out why they felt that way, when the metrics, and often their personal finances, tell a different story.Many said their own finances were good enough — they had jobs, owned houses, made ends meet. But they felt as if they were “just getting by,” with “nothing left over.” Many felt angry and anxious over prices and the pandemic and politics.

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