As if 2016 hadn’t already provided enough reasons for investors to panic, a late narrowing of opinion polls ahead of next week’s US election is sending shivers through trading flaws. Could Donald Trump steal an incredible (and, in the opinion of many, terrifying) victory next Tuesday? It remains unlikely – but less unlikely than in recent weeks.
Win or lose, Trump’s electoral attraction to millions of Americans will remain a talking point for years to come – just how has such a divisive, brash and seemingly ignorant candidate won over so many supporters? What are the factors behind the apparent wave of discontent that is believed to have driven voters away from more centrist candidates?
Research shows that Trump supporters cannot be described as the disaffected poor of the US. Their incomes are, on average, pretty comfortable. But they are perhaps part of a demographic, or several demographics, whose lot has not significantly improved in recent years – and this stagnation has stoked up restlessness.
A remarkably in-depth global study published this morning by the Legatum Institute measures changes in prosperity throughout the world – not just raw GDP, but an estimate of prosperity based on a range of measures. The findings are fascinating but also, in many cases, exactly as you’d expect. Venezuela has plummeted down the ranks. Tragically, Yemen sits at the bottom, one place below Afghanistan.
At the more positive end of the scale, the table is topped by New Zealand, Norway and Finland, while less predictable states such as Sri Lanka, Cambodia, and Indonesia have risen sharply.
The US, still broadly considered the biggest economy in the world, is stuck in a rut. “The index sees US prosperity stagnate, despite rising wealth,” the report says. “Falling health outcomes, a worsening security situation, and an economy that is not delivering on opportunity are driving relative decline.”
Could this partly explain the frustration that is prompting Americans to vote for Trump? If so, they are in danger of cutting off their nose to spite their face. “The populist surge inflamed by this stagnation may make matters even worse,” the Legatum Institute concludes, in what can only be described as an understatement.
Five days to go.