It’s a good question, but it assumes facts not in evidence — yet. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake looks at two normally determinative factors in presidential elections, both of which should play in Donald Trump’s favor, and yet neither of which appears to be bolstering his polling, Blake argues. One is the James Carville standard of “it’s the economy, stupid,” but the more predictive of these is the Ronald Reagan question: are you better off than you were four years ago?
Gallup polled on the latter two weeks ago, and found a re-elect cycle record of 56% said yes to that question — eleven points higher than Barack Obama got in 2012. Blake argues that Trump’s polling doesn’t reflect that because it doesn’t ask the right question in this cycle:
A New York Times-Siena College poll echoed the Gallup poll to some extent, with 49 percent of Americans saying they are better off than four years ago, while just 32 percent said they are worse off. By the logic of the man who initially made the question famous in 1980, Ronald Reagan, this would suggest that Americans will vote for Trump because they are happy with their relative life status.
But then the Times-Siena poll asked people a slightly different version of the question: Setting aside how people personally felt about their situation, it asked, “Do you think America is better off or worse off than it was four years ago?”
On this question, the verdict was distinctly different. Just 39 percent said the country was better off than four years ago, while 55 percent said it was worse off. When it came to whether things were worse than four years ago, the number jumped from 32 percent for people’s personal situations to 55 percent for the country’s situation — increasing by at least 16 points for every demographic except Republicans. Positive views overall dropped from 49 percent to 39 percent.
The split is similar in other recent polling.
In a USA Today-Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, for instance, 51 percent of Pennsylvania voters said they were better off compared with four years ago, while 30 percent said they were worse off. But voters said by an even larger 57-to-32 margin that the country was on the wrong track.