Political pundits have spun a lot of spitballs to explain voter anger in this year’s presidential election. The Pew Research Center may have the answer in data that shows voters question both political parties' commitment to rescue America’s struggling middle class.
Rejection of “status quo” solutions and “establishment” economics by large blocs of voters in the Republican and Democratic parties have been attributed to concerns about job security, inability to put aside money for retirement and rising college student debt.
Pew Research findings suggest another reason – "62 percent of Americans say the federal government does not do enough for middle-class people.” That view, Pew says, has persisted since 2011, which may account for the simmering resentment and political disenchantment evident on the campaign trail.
Respondents to the Pew poll conducted in early December say Republicans tilt more toward the rich and Democrats care for the poor, but they don’t see much difference in Republican and Democratic policies toward the middle class.
That lukewarm assessment of both parties parallels the decline over the last four decades of middle-income Americans as a percentage of the population along with a shift of aggregate household income to upper-income families.
Providing more help to the middle class isn’t just a middle-class concern. It is a view shared by older people, children and poor people. The only cohort that disagrees, according to the poll, are wealthy people who believe the middle class gets too much help.
Seventy-seven percent of Democrats and 61 percent of non-aligned voters believe wealthy people get too much help from the federal government, as do 44 percent of Republicans.
Self-assessments within economic classes have generally improved as the United States has climbed out of economic recession. People who identify as part of the middle class and say they are in financially good shape has ticked up 12 percent over a similar financial self-assessment in 2011.
Despite improving economic conditions, 48 percent of the middle class describes themselves as “staying even” and 43 percent say they are “falling behind.” Lower-income Americans have a gloomier outlook, with 66 percent feeling they are “falling behind.”
As presidential campaigns tighten as they head into next week’s New Hampshire primary, Pew Research offers another cheery note – nominees who fail to win on the first ballot in their party conventions are more likely to lose the general election. Pew reached that conclusion by looking at presidential elections between 1868 and 1984.