Americans would rather search for four-leaf clovers in their backyards than look to Washington lawmakers to fix their financial problems.
More people think luck has had a positive effect on their personal financial situations than regulations and government, according to a new poll from Morning Consult and Bloomberg. In fact, more respondents believe the government does more bad than good when it comes to their finances.
Thirty-one percent of respondents said luck has had a strong or somewhat positive effect on their personal financial situations, compared with 26% who said the same about state and local business laws and regulations and 23% who said the same about national business laws and regulations.
Twenty-six percent of respondents said government overall positively affects their finances, while 31% said it affects their financial situations negatively. Thirty-four percent of respondents said business makes a positive contribution, while 13% said it was negative.
The perceived role of luck in economic fairness and redistribution is one that economists have long considered. Research from Harvard economist Alberto Alesina and MIT economist George-Marios Angeletos examined how beliefs about fairness of social competition and inequality influences redistributive policy -- as in, taxes -- in different settings. They found that in societies that believe individual effort determines income, redistributive efforts and taxes tend to be lower, whereas taxes and redistribution are higher in societies that think luck, birth, connections and/or corruption determine wealth.
Americans tend to believe less in luck and more in individual effort than their European counterparts, researchers found. "Today, the 'self-made man' remains very much an american 'icon;' and Americans remain more averse to government intervention than Europeans," Alesina and Angeletos wrote.
The Morning Consult/Bloomberg poll results support that.
While Americans are skeptical about the government's and, to a lesser extent, business' capacity to contribute to their personal financial situations, they are relatively bullish about the importance of their own efforts and traits. Forty-six percent of respondents said their education had a strong or somewhat positive effect on their personal financial situations, and more than half said their prior work experience and specialized knowledge or skills were a plus.
On the luck front, men were likelier than women to say good fortune has a positive impact on their personal finance situations, with 37% of men responding that is the case comparing to 26% of women. More Democrats said luck was good for their finances compared to Independents and Republicans, as were more people with over $100,000 in income compared to those with less.
The poll was conducted from September 12-14 among a sample of 2094 adults in the United States.
The poll results also showed Americans are dubious of the government's ability to create jobs.
Fifty-seven percent of respondents said businesses will help create jobs in the United States, versus 39% who said the same of government economic policies. Still, more Americans see business contributing to income inequality than government, with 29% saying business worsens the problem compared to 23% saying the same of government.
That Americans are skeptical of the government's ability to improve the economy is no surprise.
While the economy has rebounded since the 2008 financial crisis, recovery has been experienced disproportionally, and growth remains steady but slow.
Median household incomes increased and the poverty rate fell from 2015 to 2016, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released last week. However, income inequality remains a persistent problem across all income levels. As Bloomberg notes, average inflation-adjusted income has climbed by more than 10% for the households in the highest fifth of earnings distribution, while it has fallen 3.2% for the bottom fifth.
A 2015 Pew Research Center study found that nearly two-thirds of Americans think government policies since the recession have done little or nothing to help the middle class, while nearly the same amount said the government had done a great deal or fair amount to help large banks, financial institutions and corporations.
President Donald Trump's ascension to the White House was, in part, fueled by persistent feelings of economic frustration and his promise to roll back regulations and unleash business to deliver jobs.
"The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer," he said in his January 20 inauguration speech. Ousted White House strategist Steve Bannon has spoken often about fighting for the "deconstruction of the administrative state" as a way to spur economic growth.
To be sure, how Americans feel about their finances is to a certain extent as much of a psychological exercise as it is a factual one. Republicans and Democrats essentially flipped their views of the U.S. economy after Trump's unexpected victory last November, with major swings seen as early as the week after Election Day.