The public mood on the macro economy and job market ticked up just before people were voting on Election Day, driven by increased optimism, but not necessarily pocketbook-level experiences. Basic indicators of personal finances have not improved and remain tough for people and even as voters’ optimism about the direction of the economy improved, more also reported personal economic struggles—with health insurance, declining wages, keeping up with the grocery bill, and making mortgage payments. Remember, real income did go down in October -- and the future of the middle class remains a very real issue going forward.
This election was a battle for the future of the middle class and Obama won that war. Both candidates made the middle class the center of their closing arguments. But to voters, Romney was totally defined by his inability to grasp or believably advocate for middle and working class people. By 51 to 42 percent, the voters said Obama would do better with restoring the middle class.
If the agenda before us is the future of the middle class, as the president said in his press conference this week, voters have three clear priorities, as shown in our survey: creating jobs and getting the economy going, securing Medicare and Social Security, and investing in education. Addressing the deficit is important, but mostly ranked below these priorities for Obama voters, the swing voters Obama won, and the new progressive base of young people, unmarried women, and minority voters (who now comprise almost half of all voters).