If a hailstone were to strike President Trump as he walked to Marine One, polling would immediately show that Democratic approval for the weather had spiked to 75 percent and that Republican support had plummeted. On any subject X where X can be overlaid with partisan politics — a very inclusive set — it is the case that about 30 percent of one party approves of X and 60 percent of the other disapproves, with independents these days generally landing more on the Democratic side of the issue.
So when CNBC reported Wednesday morning that most Americans hadn’t seen any increase in take-home pay after the passage of the Republican tax overhaul in December, I immediately wondered whether answers to that seemingly objective question experienced the partisan hailstone effect.
Overall, about a third of respondents said they had noticed more money in their paychecks, while 52 percent said they hadn’t.
CNBC provided us with breakdowns of those responses and — guess what! About a fifth of Democrats and a fifth of independents who are employed said they’d seen increases in their paychecks — but more than half of Republicans said the same thing. The same split exists among those who do and don’t approve of the job Trump is doing.
So either Democrats and independents all work at places where there was no noticeable increase, or perhaps partisan views informed answers to the questions. Perhaps Republicans were looking for those increases and spotted them. Or perhaps those with higher incomes were more likely to notice an increase because it would be bigger. In the CNBC poll, more than a quarter of Republicans reported household incomes exceeding $100,000; 10 percent of Democratic households reported the same.
The bad news for Trump and his party, of course, is that they were depending on perceptions of fatter paychecks to boost their chances in November. So far, only the people who were likely to vote for them anyway say they have that perception.
There is another metric that Trump uses to celebrate the success of the economy: the stock market.
CNBC asked about that, too. About 40 percent of respondents said they had no money in the markets (including retirement accounts), while more than half of respondents said they did.
But here, too, there is a partisan split. More than 4 in 10 Republicans said they had more than $50,000 invested in the markets. Nearly half of Democrats said they didn’t have any. A plurality of those who disapprove of Trump don’t have any money invested in the market.
There’s a correlation between having money in the markets and viewing Trump positively. Whether the former leads to the latter isn’t clear. But there is also a correlation between having more money in the markets and being a Republican. In CNBC’s poll, 48 percent of those with more than $50,000 in the market identified as Republican (vs. 32 percent who identified as Democratic). Forty-five percent of those who had no money in the markets identified as Democrats.
Owning $50,000 in stock also correlates to higher incomes, of course. Those with more than $50,000 in the stock market were twice as likely to make between $30,000 and $75,000 a year than to make more than $200,000. But those with no money in the market were 38 times as likely to make between $30,000 and $75,000.
It all overlaps.
Unsurprisingly, those with less money invested in the market also were less enthusiastic about the state of the economy. This is because they are not likely to directly benefit from the booming market — but it is also because they are more likely to be Democrats.
Those who disapprove of Trump are much more skeptical of the economy than those who approve of him.
The problem here is that partisanship soaks everything so thoroughly that it’s hard not to wonder where the truth lies. In the case of the tax cuts, it seems safe to assume that most people haven’t noticed any big change. (Remember that unfortunate tweet by Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) about someone getting a $1.50-per-week increase?) In the case of the economy, Trump opponents may be giving harsher reviews than they would have under a Democratic president.
As for my controversial views on weather: I am ready for spring.
This article was corrected to fix the description of Democrat and independent responses.