The Balance of Power There's no more important financial decision than how you vote
By Robert Safian/Managing Editor

(MONEY Magazine) – While the bull market raged in the 1990s, America's economic agenda was ruled by Wall Street. Today the balance of power has shifted to Washington, D.C., borne on a flood of legislative and regulatory initiatives. The implication for investors and consumers is crystal clear: In this presidential election year, how you vote will be among the most important financial decisions you make in the next 12 months.

But on what basis should we make that decision? In 1992, political strategist James Carville famously rallied the Clinton campaign around the slogan "It's the economy, stupid." Twelve years later that slogan is no less true--but so much more complicated. What about the economy matters most to American voters today? Job growth? Tax cuts? The budget deficit? Health-care costs? Defense spending?

On page 88, in the first of our yearlong Money & Politics series, we provide the answers, at least from the perspective of our key constituency (and a much targeted voting bloc): the investor class. To reach the nation's most active individual investors, MONEY research director Andy Borinstein and research manager Doug King sent a poll to an online panel of some 1,750 MONEY subscribers in mid-November. We asked a battery of questions about the financial issues and challenges facing this country, including the Bush administration's handling of the economy. The results were then analyzed by senior writer Amy Feldman, who led our legislative coverage in 2003 ("Wag the Dow," March; "What the Tax Cut Means for You," July; "The Tax of Unintended Consequences," September), and special projects editor Carmen Wong.

Among the findings: In party affiliation, our polled investors tilt toward the G.O.P., but their support for the Republican-led economic initiatives is decidedly mixed. In the months ahead, we will continue to monitor the political leanings of the investor class and to examine in greater detail the issues that have significant resonance with MONEY readers. Stay tuned.

WE'RE EAGER TO GET YOUR FEEDBACK. E-mail or write to me at MONEY, Time & Life Building, Rockefeller Center, New York, N.Y. 10020.