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Majority of Americans say they are ‘getting worse’ financially: poll

A customer wearing a face mask waits to buy vegetables at the Maravillas market in Madrid, Thursday, May 12, 2022. Russia’s war in Ukraine has accelerated inflation across Europe, with prices for energy, materials and food surging at rates not seen for decades. Inflation is expected to hit nearly 7% this year in the 27-nation EU and is contributing to slowing growth forecasts. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

A majority of U.S. voters say that their financial situation is worsening amid rising inflation and mounting fears of a looming economic recession, according to a new Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey shared exclusively with The Hill.

Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said that, financially, things are “getting worse,” the highest percentage on record for the poll. That’s up sharply from last month, when 48 percent reported that their financial situations were weakening.

Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who say their financial situation is improving is near its all-time low in the poll, with just 20 percent of respondents saying so.

“This is a devastating finding that has been climbing month after month — no matter how they are actually doing, a solid majority believes now they are becoming worse off economically and that is America’s most critical read on the mood of the voters,” Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, said. 

The pessimistic view of Americans’ personal finances comes as the country continues to face the highest rate of inflation in decades. Consumer prices climbed 8.3 percent in April compared with a year earlier, marking the fastest increase in roughly 40 years.

At the same time, gas prices have climbed significantly in recent months. As of Tuesday, the national average price for a gallon of gas has hit $4.598, according to AAA, marking the highest recorded average to date.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll also found rising concerns about a coming recession. Nearly half of those surveyed — 49 percent — say they expect the U.S. to enter a recession in the next year, while another 36 percent believe that the country is already in the midst of an economic downturn.

Only 16 percent say that they believe the U.S. will avoid a recession.

The fears of a looming economic downturn combined with growing financial anxiety among voters could portend a bleak midterm election outlook for Democrats, who are fighting to save their ultra-narrow majorities in the House and Senate this year.

While the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey showed little change in President Biden’s approval rating since last month, it still remains well underwater, with 41 percent approving and 55 percent disapproving.

And when it comes to specific issues, Biden gets his worst marks for his handling of the economy and inflation. Only 35 percent say they approve of his handling of the economy as a whole, while 33 percent give him positive reviews for his handling of inflation.

On top of that, price increases and inflation are the top issues on voters’ minds, according to the poll, with 40 percent listing it as the most important issue facing the country right now. Just below that, at 30 percent, is the economy and jobs.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey of 1,963 registered voters was conducted May 18-19. It is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and the Harris Poll.

The survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.

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