Following the 2018 election, 60% of Democrat voters say U.S. political and economic systems are stacked against people like them

Following the 2018 mid-term election, American voters are equally divided about how they view the U.S. political and economic systems. Roughly half of voters (49{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) agree these systems are stacked against people like them and a roughly equal share, 46{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, disagree with that assertion.

Having half or more Americans agree with the idea that these systems are “stacked against” people like them is nothing new. In fact, more Americans agreed with this assertion the four times we asked this same question in the NBC-WSJ survey in 2012 through 2015 than agree today.

The country was equally divided, as it is now, several times over the last 26 years since this question was first asked. These instances include measures taken before the 2016, 2010, and 1992 elections – each of which were consequential change elections that altered the direction of our politics and policies.

When we have measured this after significant national events, like the change election of 2016 and in July 2002 with the 9/11 attacks still fresh in our national psyche, majorities of voters have rejected this assertion.

Of course, there are gaps in the data that are worth noting. Namely the entirety of American history before September 1992. Also, since then, we don’t know at all how Americans were feeling between 2002 and 2010. That was a particularly turbulent stretch for both our economy and political systems which included Hurricane Katrina, the Democratic wave election of 2006, two wars, a deep economic recession, the election of Barack Obama and the first two years of the Obama presidency.

So, suffice it to say, we haven’t asked this question regularly enough to know how every political or economic event impacted these broad attitudes or whether or not we have measured the MOST impactful event.

But what the latest data suggests is that the 2018 midterm election result, a split decision with Republicans losing the U.S. House but increasing their number of seats in the U.S. Senate, has done nothing to soothe the partisan strain of the past two years of the Trump administration, or the decades of deepening division that preceded that.

What may be most important to understand is just how dramatically these broad attitudes about the economic and political systems have shifted by party since the election of President Trump.

Indeed, at 60{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, the level of agreement with this statement is as high among Democrats as it was before Clinton won in 1992. Meaning that after just two years of the Trump administration Democrats as where they were after 12 years of Republican presidents occupying the Oval Office. Of course, to attribute this entirely to Trump assumes all other factors in American politics and across economic systems have been  the same as 1992, which they are not.

At 38{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}, Republican agreement with this sentiment is as low as it was in 1992. And, it is clear from the Obama-era data points that Republicans are also susceptible to feeling set upon by the presence and policies of a president of the opposing party. But even during the rise of the Tea Party, Republicans were no more incensed than Democrats and Independents were.

Today, just 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Independents say they agree that our economic and political systems are stacked against people like them, lower than the percentages that said so across most measures in the Obama years.

The fact that Democrats increasingly feel the system is stacked against them, even after historic turnout for a mid-term election that resulted in their political situation significantly improving, suggests that we’re not yet done with the deep partisan fights that have colored our politics for so long. At this point, it is hard to imagine what might calm this long-standing tension.



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