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Forget market downturns, this is the biggest threat facing the US economy, survey finds

Key Points
  • More than 40% of participants in a Bankrate.com poll believe the political environment in Washington is the biggest threat to the U.S. economy over the next six months.
  • About 10% cited a stock market decline as a concern, while 8% pointed to Fed interest rate decisions.
President Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union address, with Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, at the Capitol in Washington, DC on February 5, 2019.
Doug Mills | Reuters

Political feuding in Washington is keeping Americans up at night.

In all, 44% of participants in a recent survey by Bankrate.com said the biggest threat facing the economy over the next six months is the political environment in the nation's capital.

The personal finance site polled 1,000 people over the phone from April 2 to April 7.

In comparison, just over 10% agreed that a decline in the stock market was the biggest threat facing the U.S. economy, while 8% pointed to Fed interest rate decisions as a potential concern.

"Washington, D.C., being the seat of the government generates a lot of noise," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com.

"There are many long-festering challenges that this nation has been facing and continues to face — and our elected leaders have failed to address them broadly," he said.

Transcending politcal parties

urbazon | Getty Images

Worries about discord on Capitol Hill seems to transcend political affiliation.

Among participants, nearly half of Republicans pointed to politics as a major concern facing the economy, Bankrate.com found.

Meanwhile, 45% Democrats and 42% of Independents agreed that the political climate is the biggest threat.

The findings suggest that Americans are looking for action from Washington on a range of key issues that affect them  and they're disappointed that they aren't seeing results, Hamrick said.

"There's the nation's deficit, a looming debt ceiling, immigration, health care," he said.

"Despite the highly polarized political environment, Americans agree that Washington doesn't cut the mustard when it comes to resolving these issues," Hamrick said.

Preparing for the worst

Squaredpixels | E+ | Getty Images

Though survey participants are worried that political gridlock could affect the economy, few of them are doing much about it.

Half said they aren't adjusting the amount of money they're saving, while 25% said they would stash away more cash.

And 50% said they aren't changing the amount of debt they're paying down.

"We can celebrate that the unemployment rate is low and interest rates are still relatively low, but it's remarkable to me that few Americans are taking the steps to optimize their finances," said Hamrick.


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