Democrats Haven't Been This Stoked About the Economy in 18 Years

(Bloomberg) -- Democratic voters aren't usually big fans of President Donald Trump, but they’re increasingly fond of the economic conditions under his presidency.

A gauge of sentiment among Democrats rose in the week ended May 19 to the highest level since February 2001, according to data Thursday from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, which asks respondents about the economy, their personal finances and the buying climate.

It’s a far cry from last year, when the confidence of respondents who identify as Democrats dropped to the lowest level since Trump became president. Sentiment among Republicans remains well above that of Democrats but near its low this year.

“Democrats are overwhelmingly critical of Trump, but they may be inclined to rate the economy positively. But I don’t think it means they’re willing to give President Trump credit for it,'' said Gary Langer, president of Langer Research Associates, which compiles the data for Bloomberg.

As the economy improves, the effects begin to reach people on the margins of the economy and in lower-income groups, which tend to lean Democratic, he said.

U.S. growth hit 3.2% in the first quarter, outperforming Wall Street forecasts and prompting Trump to tout the strength of the economy under his watch. But underlying demand was weaker than the headline number indicated, and the world’s biggest economy still faces a number of headwinds -- including the effects of Trump’s trade war with China.

Democrats are feeling more optimistic just as the race to choose their party’s presidential nominee heats up. Former vice president Joe Biden is leading early polls in the Democratic primary, which has drawn 23 candidates, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. Some Democratic proposals, such as a plan to expand Medicare coverage, would mark a major departure from Trump’s agenda.

More broadly, Bloomberg’s consumer-sentiment gauge remains near its recent high, driven by the highest reading in two months for views on the buying climate.

The personal-finances component was little changed, while views on the economy weakened to the lowest level since March, even as the labor market remains tight and wage gains are robust.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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