Huge split in consumer sentiment means… what, exactly?

Maybe just that the US is schizophrenic

Researchers have found a massive split in the US zeitgeist, now reaching historically unprecedented proportions.

Consumer sentiment is polarizing politically, which has not been the case in former eras:

Nelson Schwartz, Boom or Bust: Stark Partisan Divide on How Consumers View Economy

Since Donald J. Trump’s victory in November, consumer sentiment has diverged in an unprecedented way, with Republicans convinced that a boom is at hand, and Democrats foreseeing an imminent recession.

“We’ve never recorded this before,” said Richard Curtin, who directs the University of Michigan’s monthly survey of consumer sentiment. Although the outlook has occasionally varied by political party since the survey began in 1946, “the partisan divide has never had as large an impact on consumers’ economic expectations,” he said.

At the same time, familiar economic data points have become Rorschach tests. That was evident after the government’s monthly jobs report on Friday; Republicans’ talking points centered on a 10-year low in the unemployment rate, while Democrats focused on a sharp decline in job creation.

“I find it stunning, to be honest. It’s unreal,” said Michael R. Strain, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. “Things that were less politicized in the past, like how you feel about the economy, have become more politicized now.”

So, if you’re a Democrat, you expect that the economy — which seemed so solid prior to the election — to fall and perhaps precipitously, taking us into recession, even. If you’re a Republican, Trump seems to represent a glorious economic upwelling.

In a post-truth world, are we supposed to split the difference? Whose reality should we trust?

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Work ecologist. Founder, Work Futures. The ecology of work and the anthropology of the future.

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