The 2016 general election is shaping up to be a battle between a consummate insider and an ultimate outsider. But a new survey from Pew Research highlights what could be an even more crucial divide: how voters feel about the trajectory of their own lives.
"The 2016 presidential campaign has exposed deep disagreements between -- and within -- the two parties on a range of major policy issues," the report's authors write. "But these divisions go well beyond the issues and extend to fundamentally different visions of the way that life in the United States has changed."
Supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton actually agree on a few economic points. Both groups are staunchly against reducing social security benefits, and believe that the economic system favors powerful interests.
They differ most notably, though, on whether life is improving or getting worse for people like them.
There's a significant gap just between the two parties, with Republicans 38 points more likely than Democrats to say things are getting worse. But the gulf is even wider between Trump supporters, who are the most pessimistic, and Clinton supporters, who are the most personally optimistic.
Not coincidentally, disaffection with society's direction is most pronounced among the demographic groups where Trump holds the most appeal. A 54 percent majority of white voters believe life is getting worse for people like them, as do 60 percent of whites who haven't completed college.
In contrast, black voters, who have formed the base of Clinton's support in many primaries, have the sunniest outlook of any demographic group, with 58 percent saying that things have improved.
Pretty much every election year gives the incumbent party incentive to argue that things have improved under their watch, while the challengers issue a rallying cry for change.
This year, though, with a showdown likely between a never-been-elected businessman pledging to fundamentally reshape America and a former cabinet member who has hewed closely to President Barack Obama's legacy, the difference is exceptionally stark.
That makes it a troubling sign for Democrats that overall, by a 12-point margin, voters view life as getting worse, and that less than a third believe the economy is excellent or good.
But the survey offers some better news for them, too. Obama's job approval, which was largely underwater during his second term, seems to be on a significant rebound, with most Americans rating him positively for the first time since 2013.
Pew surveyed 2,254 adults between March 17-27, using live interviewers to reach both landlines and cell phones.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racis