For President Trump, the performance of the stock markets since his election is a point of pride. Since he won in November, he’s mentioned the surging stock market a half-dozen times on Twitter. Before he won, “the world was gloomy,” but then there were “GAINS” and the market saw the “longest winning streak in decades.”
Which is true. While Trump and his team tend to cherry-pick the significance of the Dow depending on how it’s doing on any given day, there has been a surge since Nov. 8 — a surge that, last time we checked, was matched only by Herbert Hoover’s, shortly before the crash that led to the Great Depression.
But when considering that performance as a measure of success for the country, it’s important to remember one important point: Stock ownership in the United States isn’t uniform.
Gallup surveys the country every year on the subject of stock ownership. In April, the polling firm showed how ownership (“either in an individual stock, a stock market fund, or in a self-directed 401(k) or IRA”) had declined after the recession. The groups most likely to own stock over the past eight years? Wealthier Americans, ages 30 to 64, and whites. Among younger people, those with lower incomes and nonwhite Americans, fewer than half own stock.
Those descriptors would seem to overlap with partisanship. Younger voters and nonwhite voters are more likely to be Democrats; older voters and wealthier ones are more likely to be Republican. And, in fact, Pew Research asked specifically about stock ownership in 2009 through the lens of partisanship. Sixty percent of Republicans reported owning stock. Only 40 percent of Democrats said the same thing.
Gallup’s 2017 survey, though, showed a more equitable split. Slightly over half of the members of each party in their survey owned some form of stock, with Republicans being slightly more likely to own stock than not on net. (Fifteen percent more Republicans own stock than not, compared with 10 percent among Democrats.)
Why that differs so dramatically from Pew’s figures isn’t clear. Perhaps it’s a function of the universe being surveyed; perhaps it’s a function of changes in financial planning as the recession faded from memory.
We can draw one unsurprising conclusion, though: The immediate benefit of a surging stock market lands at the feet of wealthier Americans.
Too bad for Trump that he sold all of his individual stocks last year, before the surge began.