Since the November 2020 presidential election, Americans have faced numerous headwinds as they recover from the economic effects of COVID-19, including rising inflation, rising interest rates and wages that aren’t rising fast enough to match. Now, 50 percent of U.S. adults say their overall financial situation is worse than it was three years ago (i.e. since the November 2020 general election), according to a new Bankrate survey.

Those economic challenges are likely to have a major impact on 2024 presidential election votes, as 89 percent of Americans say the issue of handling the economy will be very important or somewhat important when determining their vote in the 2024 presidential election.

Coincidentally, over the past three years, President Joe Biden’s impact on the economy has been hotly debated: Around 2 in 3 (67 percent) of Republicans and 59 percent of Independents say their overall personal financial situation has gotten worse since November 2020, while only 31 percent of Democrats say the same.

No matter how they vote in 2024, Americans will keep the economy top of mind when they enter the ballot box.

The plight of the economy over the next 12 months may help to dictate whether it was wise, or not, for President Biden to trumpet the branding of ‘Bidenomics.’ The risk for President Biden is that he’ll get more blame than credit for the economy. But there’s still a long way to go before election day. — Mark Hamrick | Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst

Bankrate’s insights on the U.S. economy’s effect and personal finances

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  • American financial attitudes are bleak. 50% of U.S. adults say their overall financial situation is worse than it was in November 2020. 26% say it’s about the same and 21% say it’s better.
  • People are most pessimistic about their cost of living. 69% of U.S. adults say their cost of living has gotten worse since November 2020. 18% say it’s about the same and 10% say it’s gotten better.
  • People feel more positive about their careers. 22% of U.S. adults say their career is now better than in 2020, while 30% say it’s about the same and 18% say it’s worse.
  • Biden is taking the heat. 45% of Americans who say their financial situation has not gotten better point to President Biden. 35% say the same of Congress, 27% say the Federal Reserve and 39% say none of them. Only 36% of those whose financial situation has gotten better cite Biden as a reason why.
  • The economy will play a pivotal role in the 2024 election. 89% of U.S. adults say the issue of handling the economy will be very important or somewhat important in their 2024 presidential vote. 11% say it will be not too important or not at all important.

More than 2 in 3 Americans say their cost of living has gotten worse since 2020

One in two (50 percent) U.S. adults say their overall personal financial situation has gotten worse since November 2020, according to Bankrate. Only 26 percent say their personal finances are about the same, and 21 percent say they’re better:

Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023

And after high inflation in 2022, the majority of Americans are especially pessimistic about their cost of living:

  • Percentage who say their cost of living has gotten worse since 2020: 69 percent
  • Percentage who say their cost of living has stayed the same since 2020: 18 percent
  • Percentage who say their cost of living has gotten better since 2020: 10 percent

“With less than a year before Americans will begin casting ballots, the issue of the economy will be key,” says Bankrate Senior Economic Analyst Mark Hamrick. “Given sensitivity about the cost of living, whether inflation improves, or doesn’t, between now and the election will take on added importance. Elevated interest rates also play into this equation. There might not be much relief on that front given the Federal Reserve’s guidance on interest rates.”

People also thought other aspects of their personal finances had gotten worse since 2020:

Men were also more likely to be optimistic about their personal finances than women:

  • Percentage who say their overall personal financial situation is better since 2020: 24 percent of men, compared to 19 percent of women
  • Percentage who say their investments are better since 2020: 21 percent of men, compared to 15 percent of women
  • Percentage who say their career is better since 2020: 24 percent of men, compared to 20 percent of women
  • Bankrate’s polling also found that the tendency for people to think their personal financial situation has gotten worse since 2020 increases with age. Gen Xers and baby boomers are around equally likely to think their investments, including retirement savings; cost of living; and overall personal financial situation have gotten worse since November 2020:

    Percentage who say the following have gotten “somewhat” or “much” worse compared to 3 years ago (i.e., since the November 2020 general election), by generation:

    Generation Career Short-term savings Investments, including retirement savings Cost of living Overall personal financial situation
    Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023
    Note: In 2020, many Gen Zers were in the age range of being in high school and/or college.
    Gen Zers (ages 18-26) 17% 25% 17% 46% 32%
    Millennials (ages 27-42) 20% 39% 33% 63% 44%
    Gen Xers (ages 43-58) 24% 50% 38% 77% 59%
    Baby boomers (ages 59-77) 14% 47% 37% 79% 58%

    Younger Americans were more likely to say their savings have improved: 25 percent of millennials say their short-term savings have improved since 2020, compared to 15 percent of baby boomers.

    “It is heartening to see that younger Americans are citing progress with their short-term savings, given that all too many in our nation live paycheck-to-paycheck,” Hamrick says. “For all who need to save (which is just about everyone), one of the attributes of the current environment is the opportunity to find some of the best returns on savings seen in many years.”

    On the other hand, 24 percent of Gen Xers and 20 percent of millennials think their career has gotten worse since 2020 — the highest percentages of any generation.

    “Even as the nation’s unemployment rate has remained relatively low, while hiring has moderated, fewer than 1 in 4 Americans tell us that their career has improved since President Biden was elected,” Hamrick says. “Younger Americans tended to have a more upbeat view than those more senior, but would they be sufficiently compelled to turn out come election season?”

86% of Republicans say their cost of living has gotten worse since 2020

Americans’ view on their personal financial situation is heavily split among party lines. More than twice as many Republicans believe their overall personal finance situation has gotten worse since 2020, compared to Democrats:

  • Republicans: 67 percent
  • Democrats: 31 percent
  • Independents: 59 percent

Most significantly, 86 percent of Republicans say their cost of living has gotten worse since 2020, compared to 59 percent of Democrats. Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to say their careers, short-term savings and investments have gotten worse since 2020:

Percentage who say their personal financial situation has gotten “somewhat” or “much” worse since November 2020, by political party

Political party Career Short-term savings Investments, including retirement savings Cost of living Overall personal financial situation
Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023
Democrats 12% 26% 21% 59% 31%
Republicans 23% 56% 56% 86% 67%
Independents 19% 49% 39% 80% 59%

Nearly 3 in 4 Republicans say President Biden is a factor in their financial situation not getting better

The majority of Americans think Washington, D.C. policymakers like Biden, the U.S. Congress or the Federal Reserve are reasons why their personal financial situation has not gotten better since 2020.

Overall, nearly half (45 percent) of U.S. adults who say their personal financial situation hasn’t gotten better since 2020 cite Biden as a reason why. Additionally, 35 percent cite Congress and 27 percent say the Federal Reserve. Nearly two in five people (39 percent) say none of those factions were responsible for their personal financial situation not getting better:

Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023

If people are placing blame on the federal government, they tend to point to their opposing party. Republicans frequently cite Biden as a reason why their overall personal financial situation hasn’t gotten better since 2020:

  • 72 percent cite Biden
  • 38 percent cite Congress
  • 28 percent cite the Fed
  • 25 percent say it’s unrelated to Biden, Congress or the Fed

Independents tend to agree with Republicans on reasons why their personal financial situation hasn’t gotten better:

  • 53 percent cite Biden
  • 44 percent cite Congress
  • 34 percent cite the Fed
  • 34 percent say it’s unrelated to Biden, Congress or the Fed

Democrats tend to say their overall personal financial situation not getting better is unrelated:

  • 20 percent cite Biden
  • 33 percent cite Congress
  • 21 percent cite the Fed
  • 47 percent say it’s unrelated to Biden, Congress or the Fed

Millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers all most frequently cited Biden — among other federal policymakers — as a reason their personal financial situation hasn’t improved:

Percentage who say their overall personal financial situation has not gotten better because of any of the following, by generation

Generation President Joe Biden U.S. Congress Federal Reserve None of the above
Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023
Note: In 2020, many Gen Zers were in the age range of being in high school and/or college.
Gen Zers 32% 22% 19% 55%
Millennials 42% 35% 28% 40%
Gen Xers 50% 36% 27% 37%
Baby boomers 47% 38% 28% 34%

Over 1 in 3 Americans give credit to Biden for why their personal financial situation has gotten better

On the other hand, over one-third (36 percent) of U.S. adults say Biden is a reason why their personal financial situation has improved since 2020. Additionally, 14 percent cite Congress, 14 percent say the Federal Reserve and 54 percent say none of those policymakers.

When looked at by political party, more than half (60 percent) of Democrats cite Biden as a factor in why their personal financial situation has gotten better since 2020, compared to only 13 percent of Republicans and 36 percent of Independents:

Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023

Republicans were the most likely (26 percent) to say Congress is a reason why their personal financial situation has improved since 2020, compared to 12 percent of Democrats and 7 percent of Independents.

89% of Americans say the economy will be an important factor in their 2024 vote

Regardless of whether or not they think their personal financial situation has improved, Americans will be thinking of the economy when they hit the ballot box next year. The vast majority (89 percent) of people say the economy will be very important or somewhat important in their vote next year, while 11 percent say it will be not too important or not at all important.

This is especially true for Republicans: 98 percent of Republicans say the economy will be an important factor in how they vote. Independents and Democrats aren’t far behind, however, at 90 percent and 88 percent:

Source: Bankrate survey: September 28, 2023 to October 6, 2023
Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

Additionally, the issue of handling the economy will be especially important for men when they vote in 2024 (93 percent compared to 86 percent of women).

The majority of Americans say the economy will be an important issue to them when voting in 2024. If it’s important to you and you want to stay informed ahead of the election, here are three economic trends to watch ahead of the 2024 election:

1. Interest rates

After months of interest rate increases, top economists expect rates to stay high as 2023 ends, according to a Bankrate survey of economists. However, 94 percent of economists say the Fed could begin lowering interest rates in 2024. The Fed has been steadily raising interest rates to combat high inflation, leading to Americans paying more for car loans, mortgage rates and home equity loans.

2. Inflation

The inflation rate is now 3.7 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index, nowhere near as high as it was in 2022. However, it’s far from the Fed’s 2 percent target. Inflation may not reach 2 percent until 2025, according to economists polled by Bankrate, though 29 percent of economists believe it won’t reach that until 2026 or later. Americans see inflation every day in costs like food prices, energy costs and mortgage rates, and high inflation has been a sticking point in public perception of Biden.

3. Consumer debt

Many Americans are ringing in 2024 burdened with debt and low savings. Federal student loan repayments began in October, adding another bill for one-third of American households, many of whom already struggled financially. Student loan borrowers may take on more credit card debt to afford their increasing living expenses, even though 35 percent of U.S. adults already carry debt from month to month, according to Bankrate. It’s taking an increasing toll: According to a Bankrate survey, between 2022 and 2023, more Americans say money negatively impacts their mental health.

FAQs

  • The next presidential election is November 5, 2024. If you haven’t already, register to vote before your local registration deadline.
  • The U.S. is not currently in a recession, but the country has a 46 percent chance of sliding into one by September 2024, according to Bankrate.
  • Historically, election-year total returns, such as for the S&P 500, were positive after first-term presidents were elected, according to Bankrate. But the 2024 presidential election is unlikely to affect markets as much as inflation, interest rates and other economic impacts. Economists advise not making investment plans based on the election.

Methodology

Bankrate commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,000 U.S. adults. The margin of error for total respondents is +/-2.43 percentage points. Fieldwork was undertaken between September 28 – October 6, 2023. The survey was carried out online and meets rigorous quality standards. It employed a non-probability-based sample using both quotas upfront during collection and then a weighting scheme on the back end designed and proven to provide nationally representative results.