Inflation and personal spending rise sharply as election priorities, poll finds

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Concerns about inflation and personal finances have risen as COVID has evaporated as a top issue for Americans, a new poll finds, marking a shift in priorities just months before a critical election. mid-term.

Forty percent of American adults specifically cite inflation in an open-ended question as one of five priorities the government will need to work on next year, according to a June poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research . This is a strong increase of 14% in December and less than 1% the previous year. A total of 77% mention the economy in some way, up from 68% in December. But only 10% specifically mention jobs or unemployment, as US employers continue to hire despite high inflation and weak economic growth.

Now, too, Americans increasingly see their personal finances as a major issue: 44% mention it, up from 24% in December and 12% the year before. This includes more mentions of gas or energy prices (33% now vs. 10% in December) and food costs (9% vs. less than 1%).

These changes may benefit Republicans as they campaign to take control of Congress midterm this year; the economy is increasingly a hot topic for President Joe Biden. Yet the economy isn’t the only issue that’s getting more attention this year. Many are also prioritizing issues that are central to Biden and the Democrats’ agenda, including abortion, women’s rights and gun policy, which could help Democrats as they try to protect – or at least to protect – their very slim majority.

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In a troubling sign for both sides, the poll finds many Americans say they think neither side of the aisle is better at focusing on issues important to them or getting things done. .

Sara Rodriguez has expressed concern about the impact of rising property, gas and oil prices on her household finances, particularly because her income is not keeping up.

“We’ve been building up savings and we’re noticing they’re going down fast because we’re not making enough money to cover the rising cost of everything,” said the 43-year-old quality control coordinator. Bristol, Connecticut, said.

Rodriguez, her husband and son have had to drive to work and run errands with only one car for the past two months because of her husband’s broken down truck.

“We just didn’t have the money to put it back on the road,” she said.

Rising concerns about the economy are accompanied by a sharp drop in the percentage citing COVID-19 as a top issue, although new variants continue to emerge: now only 4% cite it, down from 37% in December 2021 and 53% in December 2020.

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to cite inflation or personal finances as the main issues, but the abrupt changes since December have been bipartisan.

Daniel Collier, a 39-year-old construction worker in Waynesville, Missouri, thinks lowering gas prices should be a priority.

“It hurts me financially,” he said. “I’m worried about being able to pay the rent, pay the utilities.”

He blames Biden for inflation and “poor” economic conditions, saying he thinks the president is “incompetent”.

The poll shows 69% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the economy, including 93% of Republicans and 43% of Democrats. Faced with inflation at a 40-year high in May, most Americans said in an AP-NORC poll that they were worried about the impact of higher-than-usual prices on their finances. .

For Jakyra Green, 22, the price hike has been prohibitive.

“It’s become very difficult to pay for anything, like rent, gas, and none of our salaries are going up,” said the student from Goshen, Indiana. “I just spend less or try not to leave the house anymore.”

But Green has identified other issues that concern her more. Abortion has long been on her mind as a priority, and it “seems real now” that the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. She also identified racism in the United States as a significant problem.

Mentions of abortion or women’s rights rose sharply to 22% from just 8% in December following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. The poll shows 12% of American adults mention racial issues, the same as in December 2021, but a notable drop from 24% in 2020.

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“I have these two identities made up of being black and a woman,” Green said, adding that it’s very concerning that black women experience higher maternal mortality rates than white women. “It’s so overwhelming right now in America.”

Mentions of gun problems also rose to 30% from 24% in December 2021 – both significantly higher than 5% in December 2020. The 2021 poll was taken just after a deadly shooting in a high school in Michigan.

Charles Hagemeyer sees “so many different problems” facing the country. The economy affects him most personally, but he has denounced the mass shooting in Highland Park on July 4 as evidence of a gun problem in the United States. The poll was taken before this attack, but after the tragedies in Buffalo and Uvalde, Texas.

“Gun violence is another big issue that I’m constantly concerned about,” said the 68-year-old Jacksonville, Florida resident. “You’re more afraid to go out.”

Hagemeyer thinks the country is past the point where gun control legislation might even be effective; Yet he doesn’t see lawmakers coming together to solve a problem.

The poll shows a majority of Americans – 57% – don’t think one party is better than another at getting things done. Thirty-seven percent don’t think either is better at focusing on priorities; the rest divided about equally between the two parties. Politics is mentioned in some way as a major issue by 29% of Americans.

“It just doesn’t seem like anybody in government wants to work with each other and try to solve some of the problems that the American people are facing,” Hagemeyer said.

The poll of 1,053 adults was conducted June 23-27 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

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