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Gallup: Many Americans Don't Actually Know What's Going On with The Economy

by David Yee, published

A recent Gallup poll took a closer look at the political differences that define the Urban/Rural divide -- this time by how both sides tend to perceive the economy.

In general, the Urban/Rural divide is what we colloquially call the red state/blue state map, where the rural areas tends to be more Republican while the urban areas tend to be more Democratic.

In this particular poll, it was demonstrated with almost razor-sharp consistency that urban Americans view the economy as getting better, while rural Americans believe the economy is getting worse.

What is most noteworthy about this poll is that it comes at a time when the economic data nationwide is rather flat -- neither improving or worsening in most sectors.

The bottom line is that Americans' opinions on the economy have almost no basis in fact--but a total basis in political and confirmation bias.

Even the study authors noted that the results had more to do with political ilk than basis in reality:

These data reveal how the economic divide in the U.S. is strongly linked to proximity to cities as well as to the red/blue political divide. This also means that the different political messages espoused on the political left and right reflect more than just stubborn partisan opinions; they are rooted in real differences in the way their constituencies see and experience the economy after seven years of a Democratic president. People in rural places with lower education rates who also tend to be more Republican really do perceive different economic challenges and realities than those in better-educated urban and more Democratic communities.  -- Gallup

But even more important is the fact that for 2016, it will be almost impossible to create an economic message that resonates with the nation as a whole.

Politicians pander to the base, then try to come back and capture the center and swing votes, but when the messages are so hyper-crafted to the targeted base, it becomes harder to broaden one's appeal.

But this also sets up a partisan economic debate where the candidates "talk past" each other on economic issues, rather than engaging in meaningful debate. Instead of coming to a consensus or even stand-off of what is best for the country, the parties craft targeted messages intended to intensify the divide.

All of this comes at a time when we desperately need more economic debate--with the re-emergence of the TPP, growing trading alliances in Asia, immigration, concentration of wealth, and the loss of many of our traditional trading partners. But at this point, each of these issues will likely remain a partisan sounding board for the party faithfuls.

Photo Credit: Erika Cross /

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