Two sides to every coin: Understanding the post-election American consumer

January 17, 2017
4 min read

The expression, “there are two sides to every coin,” is a useful rule-of-thumb for brands and marketers to live by as they navigate the post-election consumer environment in 2017. Key indicators suggest that the US economy is gathering steam and consumers are gaining confidence. But scratch the surface, as we recently did in our post-election research, and it reveals that consumers are divided over whether the country can unite, their outlook for the economy and their personal financial situation, with significant differences by gender, age, income, race/ethnicity and where people live. Consider the following:

The stock market

  • Heads: According to the Wall Street Journal, the Dow’s 8% gain in the five weeks after Donald Trump’s victory – now known as the Trump Rally – is the biggest gain following any US presidential election in history.
  • Tails: Consumers only benefit from the stock market if they have skin in the game. According to Mintel’s Investment Trends US 2016 report, two in five consumers have no investment account, such as an IRA or 401K, rising to 65% of those with incomes below $50K.


  • Heads: Unemployment dropped to 4.6% in November, the lowest rate since 2007, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This factor contributed to the Federal Reserve’s subsequent decision to raise interest rates for only the second time in a decade. While the incoming administration isn’t the cause of the strengthening jobs market, it will certainly benefit in the coming year.
  • Tails: Unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story. According to Mintel research, nearly one in four Americans say that they are struggling financially, rising to two in five African Americans, suggesting that the positive employment trend implies a more rosy situation than is the reality for many consumers who are struggling to get by.

The economy

  • Heads: Consumer confidence surged in December 2016, following the Trump victory, according to The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index, reaching the highest level since December 2003.
  • Tails: Americans are divided on how they think the economy and their own personal financial situation will change as a result of the election. The generally positive outlook for economic growth – most notably among white and upper income ($75K+) consumers and young men – is mitigated by nearly a third of consumers who anticipate that the election will have a negative impact, according to Mintel research.

Brands need to be cautious and sensitive to the fact that in a post-2016 presidential election America, consumers can have significantly different outlooks and opinions that often extend beyond the traditional lines of political affiliation or social class. Many of the trusted metrics that we rely on over-simplify the story and don’t paint the complete picture.  The consumer is truly divided and the need for hyper-relevant, targeted campaigns that are aligned with their sentiment and values is more important than ever.

Over the coming months, Mintel will be commissioning additional research to analyze how the 2016 US Presidential Election has impacted consumers’ financial confidence and how key consumer markets are likely to be affected. Mintel’s 40 year track record means that we are in the perfect position to assess the impact of the election on consumer behavior, both in the US and globally.

Andrew Davidson is SVP/Chief Insights Officer for Mintel Comperemedia. He is an expert in data-driven cross channel marketing intelligence, consumer behavior and global trends. As a thought leader and expert speaker, Andrew has consistently predicted the evolution of payments marketing for the past 23 years. He speaks at high profile industry events and has presented at conferences in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Andrew is passionate about the global role of payments as the first step on the path to financial inclusion.

Andrew Davidson
Andrew Davidson

Andrew Davidson is SVP, Chief Insights Officer for Mintel Comperemedia, an expert in consumer and marketing intelligence.

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