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Economic Optimism, Before and After Trump

Over the past year and a half, we have analyzed many different issues using data from two nationally representative surveys that were conducted in 2016 and 2017 (see details on methodology at this link). We will now compare results from questions that appeared in both surveys, and see if sentiments changed from 2016 to 2017. One interesting question we would like to answer is, did the 2016 Presidential Election, which occurred between the two surveys, have any impact on opinions or beliefs?

For the first comparison report, we look at the following question: Imagine someone is born into a family that currently earns $25,000 per year. With hard work and effort, how likely is it that this child will eventually be able to earn $50,000 per year? $100,000 per year? And $500,000 per year? The question asked respondents to answer either very likely, somewhat likely, not very likely, or not at all likely. To make our graphics more readable, we combined very likely and somewhat likely, and not very likely and not at all likely.

Overall, we find that in 2016, almost 84.75% of respondents thought that with hard work and effort, it’s likely that a child born into a family earning $25,000 a year will eventually be able to earn $50,000. That number drops to about 62.5% for $100,000, and 41.33% for $500,000. The figure for this question is below.

Likely to Earn: 2016


In 2017, we asked respondents to answer the aforementioned question and found that their results differed from the results collected in 2016. For a child born into a family with a collective income of $25,000, 81.08% of respondents in 2017 believed the child could earn $50,000 in the future as opposed to 84.75% of respondents in 2016. In 2017, 56.33% of respondents believed the child could earn $100,000 as opposed to 62.5% of respondents in 2016. For the final component, 30.91% of respondents in 2017 believed the child could earn $500,000 as opposed to the 41.33% in 2016. Perhaps people have lost faith in the economy under a new presidency as it seemed that in 2016, more respondents believed in greater earning potential than our current respondents did.

Likely to Earn: 2017

Is it that everyone has lost faith in the economy, or are we seeing a partisan divide, given that a very controversial republican is in office? To attempt to answer this, we will look at the breakdown by party before the election in 2016, and after the election in 2017. Below is the figure for responses from 2016.

Likely to Earn by Party: 2016




















We see that each party had relatively similar distributions to the others. Now we look at 2017. 

Likely to Earn by Party: 2017


Here’s where we we see something interesting. In 2016, there wasn’t any real difference we could find between parties. In 2017, we can see that republicans were more likely to believe that the child could overcome their situation than were democrats and independents for all three parts of the question: will likely earn $50,00, $100,000, and $500,000. We see that while there is only a small difference in the percent of republicans to answer it’s likely the child will earn $50,000 and it’s likely the child will earn $100,000, there’s a large, over 25% drop for the democrats.

We find that Republicans were the most likely to believe that a child whose born into a family with combined earnings of $25,000 could overcome the situation and make $50,000, $100,000, and $500,000 in 2017, while this was not the case before the election in 2016. This finding supports the argument that after the election, democrats had less faith in the economy and believed economic mobility was less likely than before the election.

Check back in the next few weeks for more analysis!


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