Low confidence in economy, government, media converge to place false hope on midterms
Miami Herald (FL)
It is the economy. It’s always the economy. Even when it’s not the economy, it’s the economy that drives elections.
More than a third of Americans say the economy is the country’s most important problem, according to a recent Gallup poll. With the Federal Reserve pushing interest rates higher in the hope of cooling generational-high inflation, high gasoline prices, while home prices are falling in parts of the nation, what could the other two-thirds of Americans be more worried about?
Primarily, they’re worried about the government. That’s an economic problem, too. After all, many voters may be making their choices for leadership based upon the false premise that a single election can meet the financial challenges and fix economic forces years in the making.
Trust in government leadership is terrible. Over half of those surveyed by Gallup in September 2021 had not very much or no trust at all in public officeholders or people running for public office.
And the percentage of Americans expressing no confidence in newspapers, television and radio news was at the highest level since Gallup began asking 50 years ago. Yet, almost two-thirds don’t trust mass media to report fairly.
So, we are worried about the economy, and we distrust the government making policies and the media reporting on it.
This is the environment voters confront this week in the midterm elections. And it is the atmosphere in which consumers, companies, and investors must make financial decisions.
There was more public trust in government during the depths of the Great Recession than there is today. Trust was cut in half in the 1970s as inflation rose and the economy stalled. To find a time when Americans’ confidence in their government was growing, one has to go back to the 1990s. As Pew Research Center recently noted, “As the economy grew in the late 1990s, so too did confidence in government.”
Refusing to concede a lost election, amplifying lies about voting, and perpetuating conspiracy theories designed to undermine trust in election results are counterproductive to a healthy economy and a dynamic investment climate.
A broadly growing economy, stable interest rates and low inflation fuel the public trust government must have to operate effectively. Those three ingredients are missing today. And they won’t reappear after counting all the ballots this week.
Tom Hudson is a financial journalist based in Washington, D.C. He’s the chief content officer at WAMU public radio station.