Poll: Trump economy leaves most Americans behind

Few Americans feel they have personally benefited a great deal from the nation’s growing economy, with the wealthy seen as getting a lot more help from President Donald Trump’s policies than either the middle class or the poor.

The Monmouth University Poll also finds health care costs continue to top a wide variety of concerns that American families are facing.

Only 12% of Americans say that their family has benefited a great deal from recent growth in the U.S. economy and another 31% say they have received some benefit from the economic upturn.

A majority, though, say they have been helped either not much (27%) or not at all (27%) from the nation’s macroeconomic growth.

These results are nearly identical to Monmouth polls taken in 2018 as well as just before Trump took office in January 2017. 

Only 34% of those earning less than $50,000 a year and 42% of those earning between $50,000 and $100,000 say they have benefited at least somewhat from the growing economy.

This contrasts with those earning more the $100,000, where a majority (58%) say they have benefited.

Currently, just 18% of Americans say that middle-class families in general have benefited a lot from Trump’s policies so far, 37% say that middle-class families have benefited a little and 36% say they have not benefited at all. 

These results are similar to a year ago, when 14% said the middle class benefited a lot, 45% a little, and 36% not at all.

Public expectations were somewhat more positive shortly before Trump took office in January 2017, when 26% predicted that the middle class would see a lot of benefit from the new president’s policies, 40% said the middle class would see a little, and 29% said the middle class would not see any change in their situation.

“There just isn’t a sense that Donald Trump has come to the rescue of the middle class. He has his staunch defenders, but there hasn’t been any clear success in winning over the public on bread-and-butter issues,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.

A majority of Americans (58%) say that wealthy families have benefited a lot from Trump’s policies, 22% say the wealthy have benefited a little, and just 9% say not at all.

These results are in line with results from a year ago (57% a lot, 26% a little, 7% not at all) as well as public expectations shortly before Trump took office (55% a lot, 31% a little, 7% not at all).

Poor families continue to be seen as doing the worst under Trump, with just 14% saying that poor families have benefited a lot from the president’s policies and 26% saying a little, while just over half (51%) say the poor have not benefited at all. 

These results are nearly identical to a year ago (12% a lot, 28% a little, 53% not at all). 

More people expected that the poor would fare well when Trump first took office.

In January 2017, 21% said poor families would see a lot of benefit from the new president’s policies, 36% said a little, and 37% said not at all.

Over half (54%) of the public say their current financial situation is stable, with the remainder divided between those saying they are struggling to remain where they are (20%) and those saying their situation is improving (25%). 

The number who say they are struggling has gone down since Trump took office (from 29% in January 2017 and 24% in April 2018) while the number who say their situation is improving has risen slightly (from 20% in January 2017 and 23% in April 2018).

The number who say there has been no change in their financial situation has remained fairly stable (51% in both 2017 and 2018). 

Those earning less than $50,000 a year are less likely to say that they are struggling now (32%) than said the same either one year ago (41%) or two years ago (46%). 

However, lower income residents continue to struggle more than those earning $50,000 to $100,000 (13%) or more than $100,000 (7%).

“One bit of good news in this poll is the decrease in the number of low income families who feel like they are struggling to stay afloat. However, this does not erase the general sense that administration policies really haven’t been of much help to working Americans,” said Murray.

When asked to name the biggest concern facing their families right now, the most commonly named problem is the cost of health care at 19%, which is up from 13% last year but down from 25% two years ago.  This is followed by taxes at 9% (7% in 2018 and 4% in 2017), everyday bills such as groceries at 8% (12% in 2018 and 12% in 2017), job security and employment worries at 7% (9% in 2018 and 14% in 2017), the economy in general at 6% (3% in 2018 and 3% in 2017), and immigration at 5% (4% in 2018 and 3% in 2017).  Other concerns include tuition and school costs (3%), civil rights (3%), social security (3%), family illness (3%), safety and crime (3%), the environment (3%), housing costs (2%), quality of government (2%), and education policy (2%).

Among those who earn $50,000 or less, the top concerns are health care (21%), everyday bills (13%), and jobs (10%).  Among those who earn between $50,000 and $100,000, the top concerns are health care (20%), everyday bills (9%), and taxes (9%). Among those who earn more than $100,000, the top concerns are taxes (14%), health care (13%), and immigration (7%).

Just 14% say that federal government actions have helped their family with their top concern over the past year while 42% say that the government’s actions have actually hurt their family in this area. Another 42% say the government has had no impact. These results are nearly identical to a year ago (14% helped, 39% hurt, 44% no impact) and slightly more negative than they were before Trump took office (27% helped, 37% hurt, 34% no impact).

The Monmouth University Pollalso finds that few Americans are optimistic about the future impact government actions will have on their main concern. Currently, 29% expect that Washington’s actions over the next few years will help their family with their top concern, 32% expect that they will be hurt, and 26% expect no change.  One year ago, 26% expected that federal policies would help their family situation, 36% said they would be hurt, and 27% expected no impact either way. Days before Trump moved into the White House, more than 4-in-10 (42%) expected that the federal government would eventually help their family’s top concern, 33% expected to be hurt, and 21% expected no change.

The Monmouth University Pollwas conducted by telephone from April 11 to 15, 2019 with 801 adults in the United States.  The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.

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