The electorate is mad, and perfectly happy to be that
Are you an angry voter? A satisfied Hoosier? (Photo from New Jersey Monitor)
With football season upon us, I must confess one of my favorite things about it. I love yelling at the refs. It’s a silly thing to do, since after decades of doing it, I can count the times a football referee has distinctly heard my complaints on one hand. It’s hard to be heard from the upper deck at Lucas Oil Stadium, or my preferred spot, the recliner in my living room.
Let me introduce you to the American voter.
I was scrolling social media over the weekend and came across a post by pollster Nate Silver. He had attached a graph from Federal Reserve Economic Data, or FRED, that details consumer spending. The graph is familiar looking to wonks. It shows a steady increase until an abrupt and extreme decrease in March of 2020. By February of 2021, the graph had picked up where it left off and has continued to rise since.
So? Silver’s observation is consistent with what many of us have been saying for some time now. Americans are behaving as if times are great, while also saying the economy is bad.
In April of this year, Pew Research Center published “Americans take a dim view of the nation’s future, look more positively at the past.” The center routinely measures the nation’s optimism, and currently, it’s running low. As has been consistent with other polling data, the pessimism has apparently set in. Just before the pandemic, 57% of Americans had a positive outlook on the state of the economy. Today, that number has plummeted to 19%, even though all economic indicators show conditions to be similar to pre-pandemic measures.
What conclusions can be drawn from data that shows a populace that is experiencing a similar economy, but nearly 40% more of us now view it negatively?
My conclusion is that we have simply become angrier. Just in general, across the board, our pessimism seems to have engulfed our collective psyche. If that is correct, how will messaging to such an angry crowd change?
Messaging in 2023
This space is normally dedicated to politics and government, so let’s start there.
Indiana is an interesting place to be when the environment is so conflicted. Next year, a hotly contested race for governor will take place. Several well-funded candidates will fight for the Republican nomination, and most are campaigning toward the angriest of the angry, the Trump voter. To attract that bunch, a candidate will need to take the “we’re madder than hell and we’re not going to take it anymore” approach.
The trouble is, Republicans have controlled everything in Indiana for so long, it will be awkward explaining at whom to direct their hostility. Should the Hoosier voter blame Democrats on the national stage for all that ails them? If they do, how then do they simultaneously support state Republicans for the same conditions?
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One Republican candidate, Lt. Governor Suzanne Crouch, proposes a drastic elimination of the state income tax as part of her platform. But she has been in office for a long time now, and to implement her plan she will have to undo the pillars of Republican policies she has supported that entire time.
It’s like she’s gone negative on herself.
In the Indianapolis mayor’s race that will be decided in two months, the negative campaigning is also awkward. Two-term Democrat incumbent Joe Hogsett has primarily been running negative ads against his Republican challenger, Jefferson Shreve.
Indianapolis just saw a Democrat incumbent prosecutor, Ryan Mears, run against a strong Republican challenger in 2022 and win by 20 points. In 2019, Hogsett won his first reelection bid by nearly 40 points.
It would seem to me that Hogsett should be shaking hands and kissing babies, celebrating the successes of his eight years in office and the overwhelmingly blue nature of his constituency. Instead, he seems to be trying to convince people to be mad at a challenger who shouldn’t have much of a chance at even getting close to beating him.
Are you happy?
Is the market for “happy” simply dead?
Oddly, I found a diamond in the rough. And when I say “rough,” I’m talking about marriage.
That’s right, married people in Indiana are among the nation’s happiest. The Lafayette Journal & Courier reported earlier this year that 86% of married Hoosiers report they are, in fact, “happily married.” This survey, conducted by Mixbook, ranks Indiana fourth in the nation.
What the Mixbook survey didn’t do is tell us why.
I love my wife, job and economic outlook. I am optimistic about the future. There’s no reason to assume I’m mad about anything.
Unless you referee football. Even before the NFL starts, I will say it now, the refs are terrible.
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