How does the economic forecast look to Massachusetts voters? That increasingly depends on whether they identify with Democrats or Republicans.
A new poll released last week by The MassINC Polling Group found a growing divide on economic outlooks between supporters of Republican US Senator Scott Brown and those of Brown’s Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren.
While consumer confidence was down overall from April, Brown’s supporters were less optimistic than Warren’s, with just 22 percent of Brown supporters expecting good times in the next five years, compared with 44 percent of Warren enthusiasts.
The gap, which showed up in a MassINC poll in April, grew more pronounced in July and was even greater when pollsters examined voters’ expectations for business. Forty-six percent of Warren supporters expect good times for businesses over the next year, down just 4 percent since April. By comparison, just 19 percent of Brown supporters expect good times — a rate that plummeted from 32 percent in April, according to the poll.
The percentage of Brown supporters with a positive outlook on the economy as a whole fell 12 points this quarter. Warren’s did not move.
‘What we see now is . . . people deciding what to think about the economy based on their political beliefs.’
“Democrats and Republicans are actually moving in opposite directions,”said Steve Koczela, president of the polling group.
The latest poll mirrors a national trend showing higher consumer confidence among Democrats as they try to help vault President Obama to a second term.
Bloomberg reported last week that, for a record 18 straight weeks, consumer confidence has been higher among Democrats than Republicans.
“Voters have historically made their political decisions based largely on their feelings about their economic prospects. What we see now is just the opposite: people deciding what to think about the economy based on their political beliefs,” Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, said in an interview Friday.
“Our political system has become so polarized, many people are much more likely to accept new information that reinforces their existing beliefs, and simply dismiss news that doesn’t,” Schnur said.
But Koczela cautioned that voter confidence on economic issues is down across the political spectrum.
Confidence plummeted last summer, when Congress reached a standoff on debt reduction. Though the numbers climbed in the beginning 2012 with an uptick in the economy, “now people are trying to figure out whether those signs were false starts or whether or not there is something to be optimistic about,” said Koczela.
Voters’ perceptions are less skewed about their own financial situation, he said.
“The gap isn’t growing when you look at people’s evaluation of their own personal finances,” said Koczela. “People’s own sense of their own personal finances isn’t as subject to political considerations.”
The MassPulse Quarterly Poll is conducted quarterly among representative samples of 500 state residents who are 18 or older. The poll is conducted in English and Spanish on both cellphones and land lines. This survey was conducted between July 19 and 22 with 445 registered voters.
Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert.