Half of Americans would blame Trump for a recession if the economy tanks under his watch
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- President Donald Trump has made the strength of the US economy a cornerstone of his 2020 reelection campaign. But he has reason to be alarmed if the economy tanks under his watch.
- Around 51% of all respondents would hold Trump directly or indirectly responsible if the nation's economy spirals into a recession, according to a new Insider poll.
- The results reflect the conventional wisdom that voters typically blame the elected officials in power for any economic slowdown.
- Almost half of all respondents, or 47%, said they believed a recession is imminent in the near future.
- The trends indicate pessimism among voters about the nation's economic future is growing.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump has made the strength of the American economy a cornerstone of his 2020 reelection campaign. But he has reason to be alarmed if the economy tanks under his watch.
Around 51% of all respondents would hold Trump responsible if the nation's economy spirals into a recession, according to a new Insider poll - a figure that includes people who blamed Trump's policies. The results reflect the conventional wisdom that voters typically blame the elected officials in power for any economic slowdown.
There was a partisan divide, however, when it came to assigning responsibility. The figure was far higher among self-identified Democrats, 74% of whom said they'd point the finger at Trump, compared to only 20% of self-identified Republicans.
And more voters believe an economic downturn is on the horizon: Almost half of all respondents, or 47%, said they believed a recession is imminent in the near future.
Insider asked 1,092 respondents about their beliefs on whether a recession was imminent and which individuals or institutions they would hold responsible for a slowing economy with a fill-in the blank question: "If there were a recession in the US next year, what or who would you most blame?"
Then respondents were invited to identify a person or institution they would blame for a recession. Besides Trump and his policies - which include his trade wars - they included China, Congress, Democrats, the economy, the Federal Reserve, the GOP, the government, the wealthy, the news media among others.
Confidence in the economy is cooling - and voters are starting to blame Trump
The Trump administration has reportedly been anxious about the possibility of a recession, And Trump has repeatedly cast blame on the Federal Reserve for not slashing interest rates and not doing more to bolster economic growth, even though its policies have largely supported it, according to a New York Times analysis last month.
Over the summer, there's been a significant slide among voters in their confidence towards the economy, as it shows signs of slowing down after a record decade-long expansion. Though jobs are abundant and wages are rising, Trump's ongoing trade war with China has depressed hiring and businesses have sharply pulled back on their spending.
In late August, a new poll from Quinnipiac University showed more registered voters said the economy was getting worse rather than getting better, the first time that's happened since Trump was elected. 37% of respondents said the economy was deteriorating, compared to 31% who said it was improving and 30% who believed it was staying the same.
The sour mood has threatened Trump's electoral prospects, since 70% of the economy is powered by consumer spending and any substantial decline could determine whether a recession happens sooner or later. However, consumer confidence is still high, though it fell a tad last month.
A gender gap was also present in the results as male respondents were less likely to hold Trump responsible for the recession than female ones. Among men, 47% said they would blame Trump for a recession, slightly lower than the 54% of female respondents who would do the same.
Trump also believed there's a conspiracy among his critics to skew economic data, engineer a recession and damage his reelection chances in 2020. But Insider data shows that voters aren't buying it.
Here are some additional highlights from that poll:
- Americans across age groups placed the blame at Trump's doorstep for a recession. 46% of self-identified 18-29 year-old respondents said they would hold the president responsible, compared with an equal percentage of 30-44 year olds. Then 38% of respondents aged 45-60 and 51% of those over 60 years old said they would blame Trump.
- Among Republican respondents, the greatest share of them said they would blame Democrats at 28%, followed by Congress at 13%. Only 20% said they would blame Trump or his policies.
- The Federal Reserve, a favorite target of Trump, garnered only four percent among Republicans, indicating the president's attacks may not be effective at deflecting responsibility among his supporters. The news media, another punching bag for the president, received only two percent.
- Men were slightly more likely to blame Democrats for an economic downturn compared to women, 14% to 8%.
An increasing share of voters believe a recession will happen in the near-future
Insider also asked nearly 1,100 respondents about their views on the economy with the question: "What comes closest to your view of the economy?"
Nearly half of the respondents said a recession was likely in the near future. Here is a breakdown of the results:
- 26% said they believed a recession was probably imminent.
- 21% responded they believed a recession will happen fairly soon, but the growth cycle hasn't ended.
- 18% said they believed there would eventually be a recession, but not for a while.
- 11% said the next recession is several years away.
- 7% of respondents believed the next recession is far into the future.
- 18% said they didn't know.
The results largely align with a recent ABC News poll, which found that six in ten Americans say a recession is likely in the next year. Around 43% said that Trump's combative trade policies increased the odds of one.
The trends indicate pessimism among voters about the nation's economic future is growing. That tracks with a recent survey from the National Association for Business Economics, where economists said there's a 60% chance of a recession happening by the end of 2020.
Yet despite the grim economic outlook, Trump's reelection odds aren't completely doomed. Economists say the nation is more likely to experience a period of sluggish growth rather than a full-blown recession - at least until next year, when a downturn carries more political cost.
Political experts have also cautioned the polarization fueled by the Trump presidency could lead to partisanship outweighing traditional voter concerns like the economy.
"Due to intense levels of polarization in the electorate, a recession is not likely to take Trump's already abysmal reelection numbers much further down, although I would expect some modest erosion," Rachel Bitecofer, assistant director of the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, told Vox.
There's a lot of factors at play that could turn the 2020 presidential election - a nosediving economy is certainly one of them, but fiery cultural battles at home and an international crisis are others. Whether the economy is weighing on voters' minds when they cast a ballot next year is still early to tell, but it'll likely remain a key factor as they choose who should be in the White House.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. Total 1092 respondents collected August 16-17, 2019, a margin of error plus or minus 3.01 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.