Sep 5, 2023
With football season upon us, I must confess one of my favorite things about it. I love yelling at the refs. It’s a silly thing to do, since after decades of doing it, I can count the times a football referee has distinctly heard my complaints on one hand. It’s hard to be heard from the upper deck at Lucas Oil Stadium, or my preferred spot, the recliner in my living room.
Let me introduce you to the American voter.
I was scrolling social media over the weekend and came across a post by pollster Nate Silver. He had attached a graph from Federal Reserve Economic Data, or FRED, that details consumer spending. The graph is familiar looking to wonks. It shows a steady increase until an abrupt and extreme decrease in March of 2020. By February of 2021, the graph had picked up where it left off and has continued to rise since.
So? Silver’s observation is consistent with what many of us have been saying for some time now. Americans are behaving as if times are great, while also saying the economy is bad.
In April of this year, Pew Research Center published “Americans take a dim view of the nation’s future, look more positively at the past.” The center routinely measures the nation’s optimism, and currently, it’s running low. As has been consistent with other polling data, the pessimism has apparently set in. Just before the pandemic, 57% of Americans had a positive outlook on the state of the economy. Today, that number has plummeted to 19%, even though all economic indicators show conditions to be similar to pre-pandemic measures.
What conclusions can be drawn from data that shows a populace that is experiencing a similar economy, but nearly 40% more of us now view it negatively?
My conclusion is that we have simply become angrier. Just in general, across the board, our pessimism seems to have engulfed our collective psyche. If that is correct, how will messaging to such an angry crowd change?
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