Regardless who wins the Presidential race, the one issue that is still the most important to all Americans is the economy. In a new study by Gallup, Americans cited "the Economy in general" as the most important problem facing our country today and they've responded the same way since at least the year 2000. Millions of Americans are still unemployed after the recession of 2008, while others are either unemployed or have given up completely for searching for a job because they have been out of a job for months. When you're unemployed, you lose confidence, power in the employment market and you become depressed, which impacts your personal life. In some cities, such as New York and San Francisco, unemployment means you can't afford to live in the city anymore. While these cities have an abundance of jobs, there's also a monetary barrier that people can't break through so it limits their ability to make affordable wages.
Those that are unemployed are much more likely to vote on the basis of which presidential candidate is better for the economy, than who is more likeable, because they are feeling the pain everyday of not having a job. In a recent PRRI/Brookings survey, they found that 65 percent of Americans are at least somewhat worried that they or a family member will become unemployed and 70 percent still believe we are in a recession. These views, much like with the Gallup study, have been consistent over the past four years, yet our candidates haven't focused enough on American economic concerns. The economy is such a big issue because it's connected to several other issues that Americans care about and that have been at the forefront of both campaigns, including immigration, trade and income inequality.
Despite Americans believe we are still in a recession, it's hard to argue that the economy is healthier than it was before Obama became president. The unemployment rate back after the recession in 2009 was 9.8 percent and it has shrunk to 5 percent in the same month in 2016. While this number indicates that we have seen an improvement in our economy, not all American's have felt that progress. Millennials are making 11 percent less than their counterparts back in 1980, which is the equivalent of $3,131 less on average. By coincidence, Millennials have more voting power in the 2016 elections and are yet the most misunderstood and have suffered the most. This is why you see politicians trying to win them over and they need to not just for this election, but for all future ones as they age.
Immigration became the biggest issue of this presidential race after Donald Trump pronounced that he would "build a wall" to keep illegal immigrants out of the country. While many Americans fear immigrants taking our jobs, the reality is that they are taking jobs we no longer want. The PRRI/Brookings survey found that 68 percent of Americans say new immigrants mostly take jobs they don't want, while only 25 percent that they take jobs they want. Think about all the construction workers, or the secretaries at hospitals, who are all immigrants that do hard work for little pay but improve our lives. Many successful entrepreneurs who have created jobs are also immigrants, including the founder of Google, Intel and eBay. In fact, immigrants or their children have founded 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies. Immigration is good for our economy because it enables our companies be competitive and creates more jobs that American's actually want.
Globalization is another topic that concerns Americans because they fear they will lose jobs to other countries. For instance, the American goods trade deficit with countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement cost us two million jobs last year. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump have come out against the TPP, while Hilary Clinton moved her position from calling it the "gold standard" to saying that she's against it. Sanders, for one, believes that the TPP will create more outsourcing of jobs and drive down wages and benefits. It's predicted that America will lose nearly half a million jobs in the next nine years. Americans will continue to care about the ramifications of the TPP as it relates to their employment situation and the pressure to compete in a world that's becoming more connected.
The other major economic issue that has really surfaced during this election, especially with the Bernie Sanders campaign, is income inequality. "A nation will not survive morally or economically when so few have so much, while so many have so little," said Sanders. Just because the unemployment rate has improved doesn't mean that people feel that they are being compensated fairly. Part of why Mitt Romney lost the last election was because of his comments to donors about how 47 percent of Americans are dependent on government and that he would "never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives". Furthermore, the CEO-to-worker pay is currently 354-to-1, up from 20-to-1 fifty years ago and the wealth gap continues to increase in American households.
The economy will continue to be the most important issue of our elections because it's connected to several other mainstream issues. Americans, who are unemployed, or underemployed, are feeling real pain and frustration with their status and will use their vote to try and change it. Politicians in this election, or in the future, that focus on economic issues will be relevant and praised by voters.