Politics. I doubt I need to tell you, but it is ubiquitous. In Britain, most pundits see nearly every topic through a Brexit lens. On the Continent, migration and populism dominate discourse, bringing fears of the euro’s stability along with them. In America, politics divides along pro- and anti-Trump administration lines. Even the National Football League can’t escape it! Investing and economics are increasingly politicized, too—to an even greater degree. This charged environment presents advisors with a problem: how to avoid the appearance of bias.

The University of Michigan’s survey of U.S. consumer sentiment illustrates America’s economic partisanship well. On occasion—and rather regularly since mid-2016—the surveyors have asked consumers their party affiliation and categorized their views of current and expected economic conditions accordingly. While the series is too short to draw many historical parallels, you can see one very interesting phenomenon around the 2016 vote.

Before Trump’s victory that November, Democratic respondents were more optimistic about current and expected conditions than Republicans. Markedly so when it comes to expected conditions. In October 2016, the university’s Index of Consumer Expectations for Democrats hit 95.4, topping Republicans’ by a whopping 34.3 points. When researchers next broke down party affiliation—in February 2017—this radically reversed. Democrats’ expectations plunged to 55.5. Republicans’ surged to 120.1.

Of course, the U.S. economy had grown for years before November 2016’s vote. GDP was at all-time highs. Stocks too. The only thing that had changed was the person—and party—in the White House. Michigan has asked this question every month since. The gap is sticky. Politics are persistently skewing Americans’ views of the economic outlook. So it isn’t a stretch to think partisanship may skew their investment views as well, considering that future economic conditions heavily influence stocks’ direction.

These data, of course, are U.S.-specific. But it seems likely a similar divide exists in Britain. Consider: Ever since the 2016 Brexit vote, many in the camp to remain in the EU have argued that the vote to leave risks recession—a view dubbed “Project Fear” by those in favor of leaving. These divergent views cropped up anew after the Bank of England’s bank stress tests were published in late November. It wouldn’t shock me if uncertainty about populism in Italy, Sweden and elsewhere had a similar impact on the Continent.

So how does this impact financial advice? Simple: You must check your own political biases at the door when attempting to counsel clients. If you are perceived by a politically charged client as being “of the other camp,” your advice may be rejected out of the gate. Be sure to clearly communicate to clients that your investment outlook and advice aren’t connected to any view of a politician or party. It’s OK and, in my view, necessary to analyze political developments like legislation. But you shouldn’t get sucked into assessing every possible wrinkle in the Trump/Russia investigation or Brexit negotiations.

Educate clients: No party is superior for stocks. The U.S. economy grew before and after Trump’s election. According to FactSet, including dividends, the S&P 500 annualized 16.3% during Barack Obama’s eight years in office. In Trump’s roughly 23 months, it has annualized 10.6%. Both are fine returns. And while U.S. stocks have performed better historically during Democratic presidents’ tenures, this isn’t causal. It is largely a function of happenstance. U.K. market history similarly shows stocks perform fine whether a Conservative or Labour prime minister inhabits 10 Downing Street.

If you can’t successfully shun bias, you risk driving a wedge between you and your clients. As political cartoonist Ted Rall wrote in an interesting op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, many people now live in isolated “news bubbles” that reinforce their pre-existing views and teach them to shun conflicting ones. Rall noted that many partisans may not even be aware of basic facts the other side is reporting, as news media emphasize differing stories and angles. He advised people to read news that challenges their biases. I agree! For advisors, this is key. You must make an effort to understand where clients are coming from so you don’t inadvertently anger them over something far removed from investing. Don’t reinforce their biases either. Aim to be above them.

Dispensing financial and investment advice is all about connecting with clients and explaining concepts in a manner they can understand and accept. This is always a challenge, as finance (like all industries) has its own language and financial literacy is increasingly uncommon. But with investing so politicized, today’s financial professionals face an even tougher task: avoiding the appearance of bias so that clients don’t reject their counsel before they even give it.

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