There’s yet more evidence, as if any were needed, that Americans increasingly view the world through partisan lenses: Our recent survey of economic attitudes five years after the 2008 market crash found stark partisan divides. These differences show up not just on the basic question of whether the economic system is more secure today (a judgment call, after all), but on several objective measures of economic recovery. Democrats perceive more healing and Republicans see little progress.
That’s especially true when it comes to the jobs situation. Nearly two-thirds (63%) of self-identified Republicans said jobs have “hardly recovered at all” from the recession (which began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research), compared with 44% of self-identified Democrats and half of independents. By contrast, 53% of Democrats and 46% of independents say employment has “partially recovered,” versus just over a third (35%) of Republicans. Both could be right, depending on which jobs measure you look at: While the unemployment rate has steadily improved for nearly four years, the employment-population ratio, which compares people with jobs to the entire working-age population, is up only slightly since its early-2011 low.
Or take the stock market. The benchmark S&P 500 index stands about 35% higher than it did five years ago, and has been consistently above its pre-crash high since the spring. But only 15% of Republicans said the stock market was “fully recovered”, compared with 22% of Democrats and 24% of independents (though only the Republican-independent difference is statistically significant). More than a fifth (22%) of Republicans, in fact, said stocks have “hardly recovered at all.”
Republicans also are more pessimistic about real-estate values, with 37% saying they’ve hardly recovered (compared with 27% of Democrats). Democrats’ perception seems closer to the facts: The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s U.S. house price index is up a seasonally adjusted 11.3% since January 2012, but still 10.5% below its high point in the spring of 2007.
But if Republicans are more inclined to see the hole, Democrats tend to focus on the doughnut. While almost no one says household incomes have fully recovered from the recession, 51% of Democrats said incomes had partially recovered, well above the share of Republicans (37%) and independents (40%) who said so. However, Census data show a steady decline in constant-dollar median household income, from $53,644 in 2008 to $51,017 last year.