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Fighting words: Economy talk amid a presidential election

Nov. 2, 2012 at 12:40 PM ET

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You think the debates were bad? Try talking politics and the economy with anyone this close to the election.

Here’s a quick way to start an argument a few days before the presidential election: Ask a group of people if they think the economy is getting better.

A Life Inc. post this week pointing to several data points showing that Americans are feeling more confident about the economy prompted heated, passionate arguments from both sides of the ideological fence.

To be clear, almost no one thinks the economy is completely healthy. But recent data has shown that many Americans are growing  a little less discouraged about their personal financial situation, and the economy in general.

Economists say that’s because the economic factors most people see in their everyday lives – the housing market and the jobs picture – are showing slow signs of improvement. But this close to an election, experts said many people also may be looking at the issue through the lens of their political preference.

That means things seem better if they like President Barack Obama, and look worse if they favor Mitt Romney winning on election day next Tuesday.

A little more than 53 percent of the nearly 20,000 people who took our poll said they thought their financial situation was better than a year ago. But about 28 percent said they thought things were worse, and that left about 18 percent who said things were about the same.

Those who feel worse off said they are still experiencing the painful effects of the Great Recession and weak recovery: Unemployment, underemployment and wage stagnation.

“The costs of everything have increased, but my income has not,” one reader wrote.

Many on that side blamed their current situation on President Barack Obama, who is locked in a tight race with Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

 “Only reason people would feel better is Romney wins the election and Obama is out!” one reader wrote.

But thousands of readers argued that they do feel like things are improving, for themselves and for the economy in general. Those readers said they were seeing people getting back to work, and that business was picking up.

“My son and daughter-in-law who were out of work last (year) have jobs. The Mall is busy again. It sure looks good from the way I see it,” one reader wrote.

Many on that side had kind words for Obama, and harsh ones for Romney.

“Things are better and have continued to improve. I'm concerned if Romney wins and rolls back Financial Reform and Health Care Act,” one reader wrote.

Related:Jobs data unlikely to sway undecided voters

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