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Independent voters are more pessimistic about their personal finances than Republicans are. Democrats, meanwhile, say their financial status is improving, according to a recent Bankrate.com survey.
With various polls showing a near-deadlocked race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump before they face off on Monday night, the attitude of independent voters amounts to bad news for the Democratic nominee, who is generally arguing for a continuation of President Barack Obama’s economic policies.
The Bankrate.com survey asks consumers about their debt, savings, job security, and net worth compared to a year ago, and indexes their answers. Scores above 100 indicate that respondents feel their economic standing has improved; below 100 means they feel things have gotten worse.
When the poll was conducted during the first week of September, independent voters averaged 97. That’s below the Republican average of 99.4, which indicates little change over the past year. The Democrat average of 103.6 signals growing optimism.
The survey is subject to partisan bias—Democrats, for example, might simply feel better knowing it’s a Democrat sitting in the White House, said Claes Bell, data analyst at Bankrate.com—but the results may also reflect an uneven distribution of recent economic gains.
“When we hear that broadly the economy is getting better, it’s certainly better for some folks—but there are others who feel left out,” Bell said.
A lack of engagement may also be skewing independent voters’ perception, said Gabriel Lenz, an associate professor of political science at the University of California Berkeley, in a blog post by Bankrate.com. Voters who pay little attention to politics and the media might not have internalized good news about the economy, rising median household income, falling poverty rate, or steady job gains.
Princeton Survey Research Associates conducted telephone interviews for the study. Among the 1,004 adult respondents nationwide, 27.4% self identify as Republicans, 33.6% as Democrats, and 35.2% as independent; the others either didn’t know or declined to answer.