Many higher-earning and better educated Americans believe that a President Joe Biden would be better for the U.S. economy but worse for their wallets. The question is: How will they vote in November?
According to a new survey conducted as part of the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers, half of all Americans in the top 10% of the income distribution (households taking home at least $185,000) believe that Biden would be better for the economy than President Donald Trump, compared with 30% who think the incumbent would be better and 20% who think it makes no difference.
Most Americans lower down the income scale say that Trump would be slightly better for the economy, or that there isn’t a meaningful difference between the two candidates. Overall, 37% think Trump would be better, 33% think Biden would be better, and 29% are indifferent.
Similarly, a slim plurality of Americans with at least a college education think Biden would be better for the economy. By contrast, those who didn’t make it past high school think Trump would be better for the economy by 17 points. (Holders of advanced degrees think Biden would be better by a 12-point margin, although they represent only about 13% of U.S. adults.)
While some of these patterns could simply reflect differences in where Biden and Trump supporters live, their jobs, and their ages, the data on who Americans think would be best for their personal finances suggest that many higher-income Americans believe their individual interests could be opposed to what’s best for the country as a whole.
Overall, 33% of Americans think Trump would be better for their personal finances, just 25% think Biden would be better, and 42% think it would make no difference who wins. The ambivalence could reflect optimism that things will turn out well no matter who is in charge, pessimism that there isn’t anything the government will do that could make things better, or perhaps the belief that there is little substantive difference between the candidates.
Nevertheless, it turns out that pluralities of all but the poorest Americans (those with a household income below $26,000) think that a Trump win would be better for their personal finances than a Biden victory. In fact, only 32% of Americans in the top tenth of the household income distribution believe that Biden would be better for their personal finances—lower than the 36% who believe Trump would be better.
Prof. Richard Curtin, who is in charge of the survey, stressed that the survey didn’t ask how respondents would actually vote, nor did the survey ask for the reasons behind respondents’ beliefs. “I think the primary difference is that those that thought Trump would be better for their finances may have had in mind differences in personal tax policies,” he said in an email.
Still, the dueling sentiments among upper-income Americans that Biden would be better for the economy and Trump better for their personal finances stand as a reminder of just how divided the country has become along socio-economic lines. Come Nov. 4, we should have an idea whether they voted based on their personal concerns or what they said in the survey would be best for the economy.
Write to Matthew C. Klein at firstname.lastname@example.org
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