A recent Gallup poll reports thirty-eight percent of Americans feel they are better off financially today than they were a year ago. Compared to the thirty-four percent who claimed to be worse off, this represents a slight improvement in the public's perception of the economy. During President Obama's first year in office a majority of Americans, fifty-four percent, said they were worse off than the previous year. The economy has been recovering slowly, but polls are showing that many Americans are optimistic about improvement in their financial situations over the next year.
While the poll results reflected this newfound optimism, it also revealed a large partisan divide when it comes to the attitude of the country's current finances. Sixty-two percent of Democrats said that they were better off, compared to thirty-four percent of independent voters, and sixteen-percent of Republicans. Similarly, Democrats were the most optimistic group about their financial future, while Republicans remain the most tentative. Although the attitude amongst the major parties are rather polarized, independents are mostly optimistic when it comes to their outlook on American's economic growth and future.
A positive outlook towards economic improvement, however, is not reflective of confidence in future leadership and a majority of independents remain skeptical of both Obama's and Romney's economic plans.
Both candidates' economic platforms, as well as policy critiques and claims, came under close scrutiny by fact-checkers during the presidential debates. The hyperbolic claims made in debate left many doubting the ability of the major parties to effectively stimulate the economy. In a focus group, independents seemed to think that Obama did "little things," such as rein in the credit card companies, that seemed to help the economy, but that he couldn't be fully credited with the recent economic growth.
The results of polls are largely partisan driven. Affiliation with Democratic party is at thirty-four percent, which is slightly less than the percentage of people who consider themselves better off. This parallels another Gallup Poll which contrasts the satisfaction of Americans with the status quo. Democrats are much more likely to be satisfied with the "way things are going," when compared to independents and Republicans. With sixty-eight percent of the independent population unsatisfied with the state of America, Romney and Obama will have to be more specific in their plans for the economy in order to win over people's votes. If the candidates remain elusive with their policies, the question "are you better off?" will remain a partisan divide.