By David Akadjian / Daily Kos
Since the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, there’s been a lot of talk about reasonable gun violence prevention laws. If you look at surveys, most people support them. But one of the issues we face with implementing background checks or any gun violence prevention laws is that, for conservatives, guns are an economic concern.
Different conservatives will phrase this differently but what it comes down to for them is that property must be protected at all costs, and they feel this is key to the economy. Guns are an emotional issue to conservatives, especially rural conservatives, in a way that they aren’t viewed as important to the economy by liberals.
If past experience is any indicator, the economy is the most important issue to Americans. This is what people vote on. Because of this, the Republican strategy for the 2018 midterm elections is going to be this:
- Take credit for the economy
- Paint Democrats as caring only about identity issues or hating Trump because of identity issues
With this in mind, we should work to keep economic issues front and center, especially because we tend to win on economic issues. I know this from personal experience, and from polls showing that people trust liberals and Democrats more when it comes to economic issues. We just have to keep making our case.
The Economic Anxiety Index that was just released for 2018 also supports this conclusion. It’s also a great place to start when thinking about what matters most to everyday Americans—and what matters to them when they vote.
Some of the findings were actually shocking, including:
- Healthcare is still the No. 1 issue when it comes to economic concerns
- 55.2 percent of those surveyed think the new tax law will be best for the rich
- 50.4 percent think income inequality has increased since 2008
Our efforts to shift the conversation on the economy are working. Now we just have to speak to it, and convince people to vote for better politicians with better ideas.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the data from the Economic Anxiety Index that can help you target your conversations about the economy.
First, the money question. Which one of the following economic issues worries people the most?
30.5 percent rated health care the No. 1 economic concern. This was nearly twice the response of the next nearest concern. Rising prices came in at 16.1 percent, and jobs/unemployment came in at 13.9 percent.
The takeaway here is that people are feeling fairly secure about their jobs. However, they are still worried about their health care.
This finding is reinforced by the question: As a national economic issue, how much do you worry about __________?
Health care again comes out on top, at 43.7 percent for those who worry “A lot.” Other concerns that people worried a lot about include: Rising prices (42.5 percent), taxes (37.3 percent), and the federal budget deficit (33.5 percent).
When asked to pick one issue, however, it was overwhelmingly health care. The reason for this is that health care is both the most personal issue, and also where we’ve seen some of the biggest cost increases.
Takeaway: Keep talking about and fighting for better health care.
New tax changes
The next statistic that stood out regarded the new tax law.
55.2 percent think the new tax changes will be best for the rich.
One surprise was how many people believe the new tax laws were designed for the wealthy.
The vast majority of conservatives I know do not like to talk about the tax changes because I point out again and again how the tax laws are designed for corporations and the wealthy. Any gains for anyone else will be temporary, and Republicans are already working to shift costs downward onto average people to wipe out even these temporary gains.
Results were also very mixed when people were asked about the impact of tax laws on the economy.
In terms of their personal situation results were very similar, except more people said they didn’t think the tax changes would have any impact for them.
Takeaways: Keep bringing up how the tax changes benefit the 1 percent. I like to talk about how the goal is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs, or to shift the costs downward onto the 99 percent. While you might see a small short-term gain, over the long run the playing field keeps getting shifted in favor of the 1 percent.
Another surprise for was that 41 percent think regulations on banks and financial institutions should be increased; 81.6 percent think they should be increased or left the same.
Takeaways: This is another winning conversation that demonstrates who the current administration is working for. Talk about the efforts to repeal Wall Street regulation. Don’t be afraid to challenge “free market” orthodoxy. No Democrats should be aiding in this effort to repeal Dodd-Frank.
A majority think income inequality has increased since 2008
This was another surprise. A majority of people think income inequality has increased since 2008.
Takeaways: When you combine this with peoples’ views about how tax changes are primarily benefiting the wealthy, a majority still think the system is being rigged. Help them understand how.
Overall, the Economic Anxiety Index mean score is only down 1 point from 32 in April 2017 to now. People are still worried about the economy.
As Republicans ramp up for the 2018 midterms, the story is going to be: We care about the economy, you care about identity.
As we fight in 2018, don’t forget the economy. We should not lose sight of health care. This does not preclude talking about other issues, but if we want to translate anger into political power, we must keep coming back to the economy. For example, when I talk about identity issues, I often talk about how identity issues are economic issues.
The economy tends to be the No. 1 issue people cite when voting. Right now, the numbers from the Economic Anxiety Index don’t bode well for the current administration. Let’s keep them that way.
David Akadjian is the author of The Little Book of Revolution: A Distributive Strategy for Democracy (print or ebook).
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