A monster stock rally to close 2019, low unemployment and big wage growth for low-income Americans have sent public attitudes toward President Donald Trump’s economic agenda rocketing up, according to recent polling by the Financial Times and the Peter G Peterson Foundation.
In all, about 51% of Americans says Trump’s economic policies have “strongly” or “somewhat” helped the economy. It’s the first time a majority of Americans have signaled such support for the president’s economic agenda since the survey began surveying citizens’ attitude on the topic.
The survey saw a drastic increase in just a month, from 44% approval and 47% saying he had hurt economic growth, to now 51% approval.
The poll, of course, was sharply divided along party lines, with just 19% of Democrats saying Trump’s policies have helped the economy versus 89% of Republican approval.
Trump got a big boost from Independents, with 43% saying Trump has been good for the economy versus 33% saying he has been bad and another 24% saying he has had no impact.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch chief economist Michelle Meyer told Financial Times that a combination of low interest rates, improvements in the housing market and the year-end stock market rally were all factors in the shift to ward more optimism about Trump.
Over the final three months of 2019, the Wall Street benchmark index, the S&P 500, rose 8.5%, its best quarter in six years while unemployment remained at a 50-year low, driving up wages. Blue-collar sectors like retail, hotels and restaurants saw a big increase in take-home pay.
Consumer spending around the holidays also helped boost voter sentiment, according to Global Strategy Group partner Julie Hootkin.
“Improved perceptions of the economy around the holidays go hand-in-hand with this year’s higher consumer spending,” Hootkin said. “And more people than ever traveled during the holidays this year, another indicator of economic optimism.”
The news isn’t all great, however. The polling showed support for Trump’s economic policies wasn’t as strong in the all-important swing states that helped him win the 2016 election. Trump won Wisconsin by just 23,000 votes, and only 39% of likely voters there back his economic policies. In Pennsylvania and Michigan, 46% say his agenda has helped the economy.
The poll also shows that the surge in optimism has some ties to the recent trade truce between the U.S. and China as more than three-quarters of respondents saying trade tensions have a “very strong” or “somewhat strong” impact on the economy.
Trump and Beijing reached agreement on a phase one trade deal last month, which will be signed next week, along with the NAFTA revamp that has now passed the House and is making its way through the Senate.
About 46% of respondents say the U.S. should not resort to slapping tariffs on trading partners to settle trade disputes and just 31% say tariffs are appropriate against China.
Only 23% believe Trump should continue his hard-line stance against Beijing.
About 43% said the trade wars have affected their personal finances while more than half, 52%, say their local economy has been hurt.
Additionally, the poll showed nearly two-thirds of respondents say they are not better off financially, despite strong economic growth the past three years.
The FT-Peterson Poll was conducted Dec. 16-22 and reflects the opinions of 1,003 likely voters and has a margin of error of +/- 3%.