Voters' top concern this election is their wallets, study finds

Stephanie Asymkos
·Reporter
·3 mins read

“It’s the economy, stupid.”

The quip from Democratic strategist James Carville in 1992 could easily apply to this year’s presidential election.

The top voting issue for Americans is the economic recovery, according to a new Credit Karma survey, with 56% of the 1,045 respondents citing it as their highest concern. What’s more, almost 2 in 5 voters consider their finances to be the primary driver behind why they’re exercising their civic duty this year.

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“Economic recovery is the basis for a lot of elections,” said Ken Lin, Credit Karma’s founder, and CEO. “Oftentimes when the economy is going well, you normally see incumbents stay in office.”

The top voting issue for Americans is the economic recovery, according to a new Credit Karma survey, with 56% of the 1,045 respondents citing it as their highest concern. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
The top voting issue for Americans is the economic recovery, according to a new Credit Karma survey, with 56% of the 1,045 respondents citing it as their highest concern. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

The economy beat out other topical, hot-button issues like health care reform, racial justice, immigration, and climate change. Four other voter concerns in the top 10 also had to do with pocketbook issues, including taxes, stimulus program, income inequality/minimum wage, and cost of education/student debt.

“Obviously over the last six or seven months, most Americans are really struggling,” Lin said. “[A] meaningful percentage of consumers feel like they're worse off now given COVID and pandemic.”

Significant economic challenges will persist’

One in three respondents in the Credit Karma survey reported their financial situation had worsened since the beginning of the pandemic.

Read more: Coronavirus: Americans reach into their own pockets to financially help family and friends

But COVID-19 isn’t the sole culprit; just a quarter of Americans said their finances had improved under Trump’s presidency, according to new data from Bankrate. The rest said their finances remained the same or worsened.

People participate in early voting, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
People participate in early voting, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

“Despite the president’s rhetoric about his superior handling of the economy, Americans are very much divided as to whether they’d be better off with him still at the helm,” said Mark Hamrick, Bankrate’s senior economic analyst. “No matter which candidate is sitting in the White House after Inauguration Day in 2021, significant economic challenges will persist.”

Millennials are the ‘most vulnerable’ generation to financial insecurity

Of the 36% of Americans who reported their finances have worsened since the beginning of the pandemic, millennials carry the mantle for being the most impacted of the generations, the Credit Karma data revealed.

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Lin said that millennials are considered to be the “most vulnerable” to debt during economic downturns because “they just don't have the savings” nor have had “the time to build the financials that are necessary to get through these more difficult and challenging times.”

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High unemployment and stagnant wages have prevented an entire generation from building their nest eggs, as Lin put it. A potential second wave of COVID-19 and the questionable status of another round of stimulus money translates to “more uncertainty on the horizon” for them, too, he said.

Stephanie is a reporter for Yahoo Money and Cashay, a new personal finance website. Follow her on Twitter @SJAsymkos.

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