By Bernie Becker - 03/10/11 06:12 PM EST
The survey comes as prices at the pump are rising, as unrest in the Middle East has bumped up the cost of oil. According to AAA, an average gallon of gas currently costs $3.53 a gallon — after standing at an average of $3.12 a gallon a month ago.
The discussion about the cost of gas in Washington has largely centered of late on whether to tap the nation’s oil reserves to bring down prices, a move the administration has signaled it is considering.
In its report on the poll, Gallup said, in some ways, the anticipation of where gas prices are headed is more important than where it currently stands — adding that predictions that gas would have to hit $4 a gallon to really hurt economic growth do not take consumer expectations into account.
The company found consumers expect an average increase of 91 cents per gallon of gas, 21 cents more than when it asked the question in 2009.
Even with just the belief that gas prices will continue to rise, Gallup found, “it seems reasonable that consumers and businesses will change their behavior accordingly — with consumers reducing their use of gas, spending less in general, and downscaling where they buy, while businesses anticipate revenue declines, also spend less, and limit their hiring.”
The Gallup poll was conducted from March 3-6 and sampled 1,021 adults.