American armageddon: More people believe the economy will kill the U.S. for good—and that’s bad news for Joe Biden


Between earthquakes popping up in unusual places, murder hornets making a brief debut a couple years ago (remember those?) and the price of a Trader Joe’s banana rising for the first time in decades, the world seems to be increasingly unpredictable. Much like a Mentos mint popped into a Coke bottle, the pressure is bubbling and potentially set to burst.

But the prime fear among doomsday preppers is less out-of-this-world, like an alien invasion or zombie apocalypse; rather, it takes place on Wall Street’s doorstep. 

A third (33%) of Americans fear the end of the U.S. will be the result of a total economic collapse that ripples across the nation, according to a poll released by Ipsos’ Consumer Tracker. Other apocalyptic anxieties revolve around World War III (25%), climate change (19%), another pandemic (12%), and killer robots (2%). A portion of respondents (6%) say none of the above  are on their minds when they fear the end.

Americans can’t agree on why the nation might fall.

Courtesy of Ipsos

With an election on the horizon, the nation’s feelings towards finances could be a thorn in President Biden’s side as he seeks to hold onto his job for another four years. America, a relatively young nation, is an especially odd spot as it goes through growing pains—or the end of an era, depending on who you ask. 

As polarization increases especially in a radicalized right, satisfaction with the nation’s democracy reaches a record low. Fittingly, the different parties foresee different chaos scenarios.  While on average a third of Americans are focused on economic turmoil, Republicans are more concerned than Democrats at 48% and 22%, respectively. Independents stand at 37%. Democrats are most concerned about climate change at 32%. That shifts to just 6% for Republicans and 12% for independents. While becoming a partisan issue, the earth is in crisis mode as the U.N. climate chief warned that we have two years to really mobilize before climate change worsens.

After years of inflation that outpaced wages, Americans are finally catching a break but many are still feeling a residual sting. Cynicism pervades as many deal with oversized student loans, grapple with financial instability, and face an uphill battle to afford incredibly pricey life milestones like buying a house, having kids, or retiring. Despite relative gains—especially in the working-class fields as bolstered by union success—the true middle class has wavered in an age of high inequality

“The economy’s performance and any economic disasters loom large in the public’s mind. Whether Americans notice and benefit from an improving economy will be an important piece to Biden’s success over the next seven months,” Sarah Feldman, senior data journalist, tells Fortune. “But, for right now, the president’s marks on the economy are weak, and he needs inflationary pressure to ease to get on better footing with the public here.”

Of course, the data shows the U.S. economy is stronger than it may feel to many Americans, as economists often note. But people are still feeling down, reeling from a pandemic and continually looming recessions, so the Biden administration will absorb much of the blame. In general, the political party in power tends to take a hit during times of economic malaise. (That said, a new paper from left-leaning think-tank Economic Policy Institute says economic performance tends to be stronger when Democrats are in power.)

Second on everyone’s list of potential disasters is another worldwide war, at 25% total and almost equal concern across all parities. Indeed, Americans are constantly hearing about socio-economic turmoil, war, and genocide. It’s another point of contention for the election, as Biden’s inaction on Israel has disenchanted some of his past voters (especially younger ones).

One thing is for sure, America’s plate is full when it comes to all its burgeoning crises or brewing anxieties. And the next senior citizen to take the reins of the troubled nation will have to deal with how much people pay for groceries before we tackle the less-apparent problems like killer robots. 

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