Trump’s victory changed the way Americans see reality – Washington Post


Washington Post illustration; iStock

Democrats and Republicans have never been further apart in their expectations for the economy than they are right now.

The Trump presidency appears to have sparked an unprecedented political polarization in consumer confidence, which is often viewed as a leading indicator for the economy’s performance. While Democrats and Republicans have similar beliefs about how the economy is performing at the moment, they are now hugely divided over how it will perform in the future, new research shows.

“When we ask them about the economy … most Democrats expect a recession over the next year, and most Republicans expect economic growth,” says Richard Curtin, who directs the University of Michigan’s well-known survey. “That has been the big news: about how Democrats and Republicans shifted almost totally and instantly with the election of Trump.”

Perhaps surprising: That is a recent phenomenon. The research shows that Republicans were a little more optimistic than Democrats during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, although Curtin says the difference was not statistically significant. The gap was slightly larger under Barack Obama, with Democrats being more optimistic than their Republican counterparts. (The University of Michigan has collected this data only periodically, so it excludes the presidencies of George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton.)

But with the election of Donald Trump, the partisan gap in consumer confidence split wide open, as the chart below shows.

Perhaps because Trump’s electoral win was unexpected by some, the data also show a sharp swing in the opinions of Democrats and Republicans before and after the election. As the chart below shows, Democrats quickly went from having more positive expectations for the economy than Republicans did to having a much dimmer view.

On average, the levels of confidence that Americans as a whole express in the economy are relatively high. After the presidential election, Michigan’s measure of consumer confidence jumped to levels not seen since 2004.

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