Voters Now Say Economy Most Important Issue genre: Econ-Recon & Just Jihad & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation

Angry mom

Two recent polls now show that Americans see the economy as the most important issue facing the country as they move towards deciding how to vote in November. The Economy has surpassed the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism...and when combined they may make for an anti-incumbent sentiment rarely witnessed. November may find Americans even angrier if the downward trends persist in the housing industry.

From The Washington Post:

Flat wages and rising debt nationally have converged to leave millions of middle-class households feeling acutely vulnerable to bumps in their financial planning. The most visible of these are rising energy prices and a softening housing market.

A less obvious but powerful variable is the interest paid by people carrying credit card debt or mortgages whose monthly payments vary with interest rates. People buffeted by these trends have given rise to a new and volatile voting block.

"People like this are making a large ripple across the body politic," said Republican pollster Bill McInturff of Public Opinion Strategies. When added to the growing opposition to the war in Iraq, he said, worry about this economic crunch "is creating a political environment that is not that friendly to the party in power."

This year could mark the emergence of what might be called mortgage moms -- voters whose sense of well-being is freighted with anxiety about their families' financial squeeze. Democrats are betting that this factor is strong enough to trump security or cultural values issues.

If soccer, security, and now mortgage moms are all angry; someone better look out. While the GOP plans to invoke national security and the fear of terrorism, issues that worked well in 2002 and 2004, it is hard to imagine they would be sufficient to overcome what holds the most weight with moms, the economic security of their own families.

According to a recent survey by Bloomberg News and the Los Angeles Times, six in 10 self-described independents said the economy was doing badly, and seven in 10 said the country was on the wrong track. A Fox News poll, taken at the end of last month, showed that 23 percent of Americans consider the economy the most important factor they will weigh when they cast their ballots in November -- more than those who cited Iraq (14 percent) or terrorism (12 percent).

Then there is debt. According to a study by the Federal Reserve Board, the ratio of financial obligations -- primarily mortgage and consumer debt -- to disposable personal income rose to a modern record of 18.7 percent earlier this year. The amount of mortgage debt alone has more than doubled since 2000, to nearly $9 trillion. And in July, for the 16th consecutive month, consumers in the aggregate spent all of their disposable income and dipped into savings or borrowed to finance the things they bought.

Among the most exposed are those who bought into one of the great fads in mortgage lending in recent years -- adjustable rates. Next year, $1 trillion worth of adjustable-rate mortgages -- about 11 percent of all outstanding mortgage debt -- is scheduled to readjust to a higher interest rate for the first time, according to LoanPerformance, a research company. This will come after more than $400 billion of readjustments this year. That means millions of homeowners will either have to refinance or shoulder an increase of perhaps 25 percent in their monthly payments.

This data supports the anecdotal observations previously made here at Thought Theater and may well be the beginning of the modern day version of the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 1980's.

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Most Americans are angry about "something" when it comes to how the country is run, and they are more likely than in previous years to vote for a challenger this November, a new poll suggests.

A majority -- 55 percent -- said they are more likely to back a challenger in races on this year's ballot. Such anti-incumbent sentiment is higher than the 48 percent recorded as "pro-challenger" in a similar survey in 1994, when the GOP took control of both houses of Congress.

More than 60 percent of those surveyed said government policies need either major changes or a complete overhaul, while 30 percent said minor changes were needed. Only 7 percent said no change is necessary.

The economy topped the list of respondents' concerns, with 28 percent calling it the most important issue when deciding how to cast their ballots. Coming second was Iraq at 25 percent, followed by terrorism (18 percent), moral issues (15 percent) and immigration (14 percent).

Democrats lead Republicans by a 10-point margin, 53 to 43 percent, among likely voters asked which party's congressional candidate they would support in November, and Democrats held a 56-40 lead on the same question among registered voters.

It is somewhat surprising how quickly the economy has become a key issue in this upcoming election. Just a couple of months back, a number of GOP strategists were urging the President and the Party to begin to showcase the economic successes of the last five years. Unfortunately, the data that measures the economy's benefits to average wage earners provided a bleak picture and seems to explain why the GOP was never able to gain traction with the issue.

Daniel DiRito | September 4, 2006 | 9:42 PM
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