I asked voters the Reagan Question
And their response may tell us a lot about the next election
In the final days of the 1980 presidential campaign, between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan, the two contenders for the most important job in the world took part in their one and only debate. Until then, the race was pretty close. But then Reagan turned to the camera, looked direct into the eyes of the millions of ordinary Americans who were sitting at home and asked them one of the most famous campaign questions of all time. Just take one minute, click play and watch it for yourself:
“Are you better off than you were four years ago?”, asked Reagan. “Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected around the world as it was?" At the election that followed, after asking his question, Reagan won a landslide victory, completing demolishing Jimmy Carter and beginning what would become known as the 1980s realignment of American politics.
Fast forward to today and on this side of the Atlantic it’s the left not the right which looks set to ask voters the Reagan Question. Ahead of the rapidly approaching 2024 general election, and against the backdrop of rampant inflation, the most severe cost-of-living crisis for decades and, as new data this week confirmed, the sharpest decline in people’s living standards since the 1950s, Labour leader Keir Starmer may well be tempted to do the exact same thing as Reagan -to open his next election broadcast by simply looking into the camera and asking the British people the same set of questions. In fact, I’ve already asked them and here’s what they said.