Here in Ohio, voters shocked the political establishment by handing Donald Trump a decisive victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election — a result that was even more impressive because it represented a massive 11-point swing compared to the 2012 election, when Ohio voted for Barack Obama by a 3-point margin. Ohio is supposed to be a hotly-contested battleground state, yet Donald Trump won Ohio by the widest margin of any presidential candidate since George H.W. Bush in 1988.
The pundits didn’t seem to understand our choice back then, but we received some significant validation when a new Gallup poll showed that 61% of Americans believe they are better off than they were three years ago. That’s not just an encouraging result for the president, it’s proof that Ohioans knew exactly what we were doing when we cast our ballots in 2016.
Gallup has conducted polling on the same question every time an incumbent president has run for re-election since 1992, and 61% is a record — the highest level for any first-term president. In fact, it’s not even close. The current figure beat the previous record, set at the end of President Clinton’s first term in 1996, by an incredible 11 percentage points. Among independents, 60% say they’re better off, outpacing Clinton’s 1996 record by 10 percentage points.
The “are you better off” question has been a key litmus test for incumbent presidents ever since Ronald Reagan famously posed the question during a 1980 debate with incumbent President Jimmy Carter, challenging voters to ask themselves, “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” Carter, whose chaotic administration presided over economic calamity and diplomatic humiliation for the United States, emphatically failed the test.
President Trump, by contrast, is clearly passing it. In addition to the 61% who say they’re better off today, 62% of respondents told Gallup that the president deserves credit for the strong and growing economy.
Such lopsided optimism isn’t an anomaly. People perceive that we’re enjoying widespread prosperity today because they’ve experienced it for themselves.
Since President Trump took office, Ohio’s unemployment rate is down a full percentage point to 4.2%, a figure last seen in 2001. Our manufacturing sector has increased output by $11 billion and added tens of thousands of jobs, reaching its highest employment level since before the 2008 financial crisis.
Nationwide, the bottom half of wage earners have added to their net worth at three times the rate of the top 1%. Wages are rising significantly faster for the lowest-earning quartile of workers compared to the top 25% of earners. Across the board, incomes are up and poverty is down.
Wall Street has seen a historic bull market for all three years of the Trump administration, but that doesn’t mean the benefits of the Trump boom have been confined to the “one percent” — the surging stock market has produced enormous gains for anybody with a 401(k), IRA, or other type of retirement account.
There’s no single, definitive way to predict the outcome of a presidential election, but the “are you better off” test comes closer than any other metric. People who perceive their lives to be improving generally aren’t interested in going back to the way things were before — and by an overwhelming margin, the American people perceive themselves to be better off with President Trump in the White House.
Ken Blackwell served as the mayor of Cincinnati, state treasurer for Ohio, and secretary of state for Ohio. He currently serves on the board of directors for Club for Growth and the National Taxpayers Union.