Inflation, expenses rise sharply as priorities among Americans: poll
Concerns about inflation and personal finances have surged while COVID has evaporated as a top issue for Americans, a new poll shows, marking an upheaval in priorities just months before critical midterm elections.
Forty percent of U.S. adults specifically name inflation in an open-ended question as one of up to five priorities for the government to work on in the next year, according to a June poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
That's a sharp rise from 14% in December and less than 1% the year prior. In all, 77% mention the economy in any way, up from 68% in December. But just 10% specifically mention jobs or unemployment, as U.S. employers continue to hire despite high inflation and weak economic growth.
Now, too, Americans increasingly call their personal finances a major issue: 44% mention it, up from 24% in December and 12% the year before. That includes more mentioning gas or energy prices (33% now vs. 10% in December) and food costs (9% vs. less than 1%).
Those shifts may be advantageous to Republicans as they campaign to win control of Congress in this year's midterms; the economy has increasingly been a sore subject for President Joe Biden. Still, the economy isn’t the only issue getting more attention this year.
Many also prioritize issues that are core to Biden and Democrats’ agenda, including abortion, women’s rights and gun policy, which could help Democrats as they try to pad — or at least protect — their razor-thin majority.
In a troubling sign for both parties, the poll finds many Americans say they think neither side of the aisle is better at focusing on the issues important to them or getting things done.
Sara Rodriguez said she’s concerned about the impact of rising prices of goods, gas and oil on her household’s finances, especially because her income isn’t keeping up.
“We’ve had a savings built up and we’re noticing that it’s definitely going down fast because we don’t make enough money to cover how much the cost of everything has risen,” the 43-year-old quality control coordinator in Bristol, Connecticut, said.
Rodriguez and her husband and son have had to get to their workplaces and run errands using one car over the last couple of months because of her husband’s broken-down truck.
“We just haven’t had the money to get it back on the road,” she said.
The rise in concerns about the economy is paired with a steep decline in the percentage naming COVID-19 as a top issue, even as new variants continue to emerge: Now just 4% mention it, down from 37% in December 2021 and 53% in December 2020.
Republicans are more likely than Democrats to mention inflation or personal finances as top issues, but the sharp changes since December are bipartisan.
Daniel Collier, a 39-year-old construction worker in Waynesville, Missouri, thinks lowering gas prices should be a priority.
“It’s hurt me financially,” he said. “I worry about being able to pay the rent, pay utilities.”
He blames Biden for inflation and “poor” economic conditions, saying he thinks the president is “incompetent.”