Poll: Prices at the pump threaten Obama at the ballot box

Rising gasoline prices are taking a political toll on President Obama, a new ABC News/Washington Post poll finds.

It shows that among people claiming “serious” hardship from pump prices, only 39 percent approve of Obama. Among those who say there is no serious hardship or no hardship, 50 percent and 56 percent approve of the president, respectively. 

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What's more, among those claiming “serious” hardship, 53 percent say they will not vote for Obama. That number dips to 40 percent among people who say the financial burden is not serious and 39 percent among people who do not report hardship.

“Political support usually rests heavily on economic performance, and there the sharply rising price of gas is taking its expected toll,” a summary of the poll states. The poll also finds that people reporting serious hardship from gas prices are far more likely to believe the economy is getting worse.

Overall, the poll of 1,001 adults finds that 71 percent claim that the rise in gasoline prices is causing financial hardship for them or others in their household. Forty-three percent called the hardship serious; 29 percent say it isn’t.

Those numbers are similar to polling in the summer of 2008, when gasoline prices reached record highs and the share of people reporting hardship peaked at 77 percent.

The summary notes that gas prices battered former President George W. Bush’s approval ratings just as much as — or more than — Obama’s.

“It’s not unusual for the president to take the heat when gas prices rise: George W. Bush’s job approval rating correlated with the price of gasoline across his two terms at -.84, a very strong relationship. Obama’s approval rating has correlated with the price of gas at -.71,” it states.

Drivers who feel battered by pump prices are also less likely to look favorably on Capitol Hill Democrats. The poll finds that approval of congressional Democrats is nine points lower among people reporting financial hardship.

However, approval ratings for congressional Republicans are the same — at 34 percent — among people who claim hardship and those who don’t, the poll finds.

The poll also finds that the surge in gas prices is prompting significant numbers of people to cut back on their driving. Among those reporting some kind of hardship, 72 percent say they’re driving less, compared to 51 percent of the entire sample.

Langer Research Associates conducted the poll April 14-17. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Regular gasoline prices are averaging $3.87 per gallon nationwide, according to AAA. Prices hit a record average high of $4.11 in mid-July of 2008.