WASHINGTON, D.C. (Dec. 11, 2019) – A new Pew Research Center survey finds that public assessments of the economy are mixed, differ significantly by household income, and are strongly linked to partisanship. Majorities of upper-income (71%) and middle-income U.S. adults (60%) say current economic conditions are excellent or good, but only about four-in-ten lower-income adults (41%) share that view, while a majority (57%) say the economy is only fair or poor.
Most Republicans and independents who lean to the Republican Party (75%) give the economy positive ratings, while a majority of Democrats and Democratic leaners (59%) rate it negatively. Even so, income gaps persist within these party groups. In fact, lower-income Republicans are roughly four times as likely as upper-income Republicans to give the economy only a fair or poor rating (43% vs. 11%).
A sizable majority of the public says the country’s current economic conditions are only helping certain groups of Americans. About seven-in-ten adults (69%) say that current economic conditions are helping people who are wealthy. At the same time, majorities say economic conditions are hurting the poor and the middle class.
These findings are from a nationally representative Pew Research Center survey of 6,878 U.S. adults conducted online from Sept. 16 to Sept. 29, 2019, using Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel. The margin of sampling error for the full sample is plus or minus 1.6 percentage points.
Additional key findings in the report:
Lower-income Americans are about twice as likely as upper-income Americans to say the economy is hurting them and their family: Among lower-income adults, 60% say current economic conditions are hurting them and their families. This compares with 43% of middle-income and 29% of higher-income adults. About half of higher-income adults say economic conditions are helping them and their families (47%), compared with only 22% of lower-income Americans.
About two-thirds of lower-income Americans frequently worry about paying their bills: The day-to-day challenges that Americans face differ markedly by income. While 65% of lower-income adults say they worry almost daily about paying their bills, just 35% of middle-income and 14% of upper-income Americans say this. In addition, more than half of lower-income adults (55%) say they frequently worry about the cost of health care for themselves and their families; fewer middle-income (37%) and upper-income Americans (18%) share this worry.
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Wages, job availability and health care costs matter most in Americans’ assessment of the overall economy: Among the most important factors in Americans’ assessments of current economic conditions are health care costs, the availability of jobs, and wages. Two of these three factors are also seen as having a significant impact on people’s household financial situations: 51% say wages and income have a great deal of impact on their household finances, and 43% say the same about health care costs. The degree to which these various factors influence household finances differs significantly by income tier. Adults with lower incomes are more likely to say consumer prices and gas prices have a large impact on their financial situation than are those in middle- and higher-income tiers.
Information on the polling methodology for this report, including sample sizes, margins of error and how we determined the three income tiers analyzed, is available at: https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/12/11/methodology-26/