Why Hillary Clinton May Have a Problem With Independent Voters
Policy + Politics

Why Hillary Clinton May Have a Problem With Independent Voters

REUTERS/Whitney Curtis

Independent voters have a dimmer outlook on their financial security than Democrats or Republicans, a sentiment that could hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances of becoming president.

A larger percentage of independent voters feel less secure about their jobs, worse about their savings and more uncomfortable with their debt than those registered with the two major parties, according to a new Bankrate.com analysis. Overall, only 20 percent of independent voters feel they are better off today than 12 months ago, compared with 29 percent for Republicans and 30 percent for Democrats.

The only bright spot is net worth. Twenty-eight percent of independents say they have a higher net worth today, versus just 20 percent who say they have a lower one. But their optimism still lags Democrats and Republicans. A third of Republicans and 36 percent of Democrats say their net worth has improved in the last year.

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“The economy is a huge issue in this election year and people, rightly or wrongly, hold the White House accountable for the economy,” says Claes Bell, a Bankrate analyst. “If the Obama years have not been good for them financially, then that will weigh on their decision whether to vote for Hillary Clinton who is a close ally of Obama and whose policies are a continuation of his.”

A broad look at the economy during the Obama years shows many successes. Since President Obama took office in January 2009, the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has risen almost 167 percent and U.S. home prices have increased 22 percent.

Private sector jobs have grown for a record 77 straight months, and the unemployment rate has fallen to 4.9 percent. Most recently, the median household income rose by 5.2 percent in 2015, marking the largest single-year increase since 1967, when records were first kept.

Still, the median household income remains 1.6 percent lower than in 2007, after adjusting for inflation. And many of the gains from the economic recovery have gone to top earners.

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“I think it’s probably the case that Americans are thinking about how the economy was after the financial crisis and that shock has stuck around,” Bell says. “I also think a lot of people would agree that the benefits of economic growth haven’t been spread evenly.”

Overall, Democrats reported the brightest financial outlook. They felt the best about job security and their savings level and were most likely to report a higher net worth. Overall, Democrats had the greatest likelihood of saying their financial security had improved. Republicans reported slightly higher job security and higher net worth compared to a year ago, but said their overall financial security had declined a bit.

Bankrate used its monthly Financial Security Index survey to find the results. Independents made up the largest share of survey respondents.