Americans Weirdly Sanguine About Local Economic Conditions

The state of the national economy is pretty bad, which means that on average the state of local economies in the United States is also pretty bad. But as Andrew Gelman illustrates, citing Gallup data, most Americans are pretty sanguine about local conditions.

The partisan split on this should reenforce the conclusion that the economic conditions that matter politically are national ones since that’s where you see the motivated reasoning start to take hold as Republicans suddenly develp a wildly bleaker view than independents. When it comes to local affairs the assessment is upbeat and most people don’t seem to be thinking with their partisan political brains turned on.

Local positivity bias is a fairly common public opinion result. Most people, for example, think that the schools in their neighborhood are fine but that the national picture is very troubled. I tend to think this drives erratic politics, as voters are nominally committed to sweeping changes to alter big national problems but actually extremely averse to concrete changes in their lives since they’re pretty upbeat about the local situation.