7/02/2019

What Really Happened in the Last Presidential Race

"The role economics played in the election results was ambiguous. It is true that Trump performed well in the primaries among Republicans who were not free-market purists. There really is a constituency for populist economic policies within the GOP electorate. Many Republicans favor tax increases on the wealthy, economic protectionism, and high spending levels on Social Security and Medicare. This was obvious to anyone familiar with survey data on public policy, but it was apparently a shock to the conservative intelligentsia.

Yet economics was less important than many observers believed (or hoped). The claim that rising economic insecurity explains Trump’s rise, while plausible, has little empirical support. The authors found no strong relationship between favoring Trump and measures of economic dissatisfaction and anxiety. Furthermore, for all the talk about “anger” being the dominant emotion in the 2016 election, Americans were mostly not angry about the economy. The last years of the Obama administration were characterized by increasing economic optimism."