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Economists Say Trump Is Their Third Choice for President

August 22, 2016, 9:20 PM UTC
Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Holds Campaign Event
Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, center, greets supporters during a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016. Clinton tried to reassure Democrats she's still best positioned to win in November after her razor-thin victory over Bernie Sanders in Iowa only served to boost the challenger's fundraising and momentum heading into the New Hampshire primary. Photographer: Scott Eisen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Scott Eisen — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Private sector economists are for Hillary Clinton.

That’s according to a survey released Monday by the National Association of Business Economists, which showed that 55% of its survey respondents prefer Clinton for president, versus 15% who favor Libertarian Candidate Gary Johnson. Trump actually came in third, at 14%, just less than the 15% who said they didn’t know or have no opinion who should be president.

This may come as a surprise to those of us who associate the economics profession with fiscal restraint, skepticism of regulation, and the promotion of free trade, positions more often supported by the Republican party than the Democratic. But in the Obama era, the Republican Party has adopted a more radical platform on economic matters while the Democratic Party has maintained the ability to accommodate a wider set of viewpoints on issues like stimulus spending, entitlement reform, and the deficit.

Take for instance the NABE survey that was released in the months before the 2012 election. Although they didn’t poll members on whom they thought would make the best president, they did canvass respondents on what policies they thought would be best at the time. A majority of respondents essentially endorsed the Obama 2012 platform, which called for more short-term fiscal stimulus, paired with entitlement reform and tax increases that would lower the budget deficit over the long term.

This dedication to balanced budgets even during economic recoveries is even more surprising given the fact that President George W. Bush signed two different stimulus bills during his presidency. Even though they were made up of tax cuts, they showed that the Republican Party was understood the usefulness of deficit spending, a tool that most private sector economists endorse for helping jolt economies out of recessions.

Economists are also at odds with Trump’s attitudes toward free trade, with nearly half of the respondents arguing that the Trans-pacific Partnership negotiated by the Obama Administration should be passed in its current form, with another 30% arguing for its passage following some modification. While Hillary Clinton now opposes passing TPP, she believes in free trade agreements in principle, arguing in a debate earlier this year that “We have to trade with the rest of the world. We are 5% of the world’s population. We have to trade with the other 95%.”

This survey is yet further evidence that Trump’s Republican party—with its suspicion of the conventional wisdom put forward by the expert elite—is moving further away from positions that can be endorsed by mainstream economics. Furthermore, these economists believe that even the prospect of a Trump presidency could be damaging, as evidenced by the fact that 62% of respondents say that uncertainty about the election is holding back economic growth. Given the fact that a Clinton presidency is basically a promise for the continuation of the status quo, the only real uncertainty produced by this election is uncertainty over what Trump would do in the White House.