The 2016 election has been defined so far by immigration, Islamic terror, and economic inequality and the outsider candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders that brought them to the fore.
But poor access to housing in America, and the lingering aftereffects of the 2008 housing crash, remains a chief motivator of anger and dissatisfaction amongst an electorate that views the economy and the mortgage market as rigged against ordinary people.
My firm recently conducted a comprehensive national study that assessed housing and mortgage access generally, as well as perceptions and policy preferences about government-sponsored mortgage entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac specifically.
We found widespread dissatisfaction with access to housing and mortgages in America and a clear perception that a rigged housing system works against ordinary people who can’t borrow money and suffered during the housing crisis.
Voters believe that the housing status quo is not working, especially for minorities. They blame banks and the federal government for not supporting policies that advance the interests of homeownership, more affordable housing, more lending.
A majority (53%) of American voters believe that “It’s too difficult for people like me to buy a home,” and fully four-in-ten (41%) likely voters agree that “Banks don’t want to provide mortgages to people like me.”
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In short: Americans believe the housing game is rigged.
Even more worrisome is that the sentiment “It’s too difficult for people like me to buy a home” is highest among Hispanic (78%) and black voters (67%), and people of color overall agree with this statement 27 points more than whites.
This pervasive dissatisfaction and inequality means something is very wrong in our housing market. It follows that we must ask how voters should approach these deep-seated problems and what policy solutions do they want?
The answer, it turns out, is straightforward: empower Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to improve housing access and protect investors who are expanding mortgage access at a time when people struggle to borrow.
When asked about the Net Worth Sweep of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal policy that diverts 100% of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s profits to the government’s revenue stream, a plurality (47%) of likely voters believe the sweep takes funds that could be used to increase the availability of mortgages, is a violation of shareholder rights.
Black voters are most likely to consider the Net Worth Sweep part of a rigged system, with a majority (52%) believing that the sweep is unfair.
Further, nearly two-thirds (63%) of likely voters believe the rights of shareholders and investors in mortgage-granting organizations such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should be protected from the government.
Support for shareholder rights is consistently strong across both white voters (64%) and People of Color (62%). Seventy one percent of black voters support shareholder rights over government interests, the highest of any group.
Americans demand swift action on housing because the crisis has been devastating to voters who desperately want Congress and the federal government to take steps to ensure housing fairness and help more Americans own homes.
Nearly a quarter (23%) of likely voters or their families have lost their home since the 2008 housing crisis, and 43% know someone who has lost their home since the 2008 housing crisis.
The desire for policy change is widespread and urgent, with large majorities of voters supporting a new federal approach to housing policy that makes more money available for mortgages and mortgages themselves easier to get.
It is clear that housing policy reform, and the desire to empower federal entities like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to help more Americans own homes, is one of the great untold stories and underappreciated drivers of the 2016 election.
Douglas E. Schoen has served as a pollster for President Bill Clinton. He has more than 30 years experience as a pollster and political consultant. He is also a Fox News contributor and co-host of “Fox News Insiders” Sundays on Fox News Channel at 7 pm ET. He is the author of 12 books. His latest is “The Nixon Effect: How Richard Nixon’s Presidency Fundamentally Changed American Politics“ (Encounter Books, February 2016). Follow Doug on Twitter @DouglasESchoen.