HILL POLL: Inflation, fueled by gas and food prices, adds to worry

Inflation is a big concern for Americans, and the rising price of gasoline appears to be fueling that anxiety, according to a new poll conducted for The Hill.

Sixty-two percent of 1,000 likely voters polled last Thursday said they were “very concerned” about inflation, and another 26 percent said they were “somewhat concerned,” leaving very few Americans who are not worried about rising prices.


When asked what is causing their concerns about inflation, 61 percent of respondents singled out gasoline prices while 18 percent said food was to blame. The next highest category, housing, was mentioned by just 9 percent.

Republicans worry more about inflation than Democrats, according to the poll, with 72 percent of Republican respondents saying they are very concerned and only 48 percent of Democrats reaching that level. Thirty-three percent of Democrats say they are somewhat concerned about inflation, while 14 percent said they are not very concerned about it.

Political independents are closer to Republicans on that score, with 68 percent of those polled saying they are very concerned and 21 percent saying they are somewhat concerned.

The depth of concern runs consistently through age and race. Sixty-six percent who are ages 40-64 and 56 percent of blacks said they are “very concerned” about inflation.

Last week, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said he expects rising commodity prices to create a temporary boost in inflation. Policymakers at the Federal Reserve, which has held interest rates at record lows, still think promoting economic growth is more important than rising consumer prices.

People between the ages of 40 and 64 were more concerned about rising gas prices (65 percent) than people between the ages of 18 and 39 (58 percent). Younger voters are more likely to cut back on gas use (56 percent), while those 65 and older would cut back on gas least (39 percent).

AAA released a study last week saying the annual costs to own and operate a car in the United States rose 3.4 percent — nearly 2 cents per mile — over the cost last year.

U.S. drivers are paying an average of $3.73 per gallon of gas, a 65-cent increase in four months.

When asked what people were most likely to cut, use of gas and food were at the top, with 48 percent saying they would cut back on their gas purchases and 21 percent saying they would trim back what they spend on food. 

While that ratio held steady throughout all categories, there were some differences. Sixty percent of blacks, for example, said they would cut back on gas, while just 39 percent of those ages 65 or older said they would do that. 

Democrats are more likely to cut back on food (21 percent) than Republicans (17 percent).

A majority  — 52 percent — of respondents said they had canceled or postponed vacation plans due to increased transportation costs. Only a majority of people 65 and older (57 percent) said rising transportation costs had not caused them to cancel or postpone vacations, although white respondents split 48-47 percent on the question, which is within the poll’s 3-point error margin.

United Continental — the world’s biggest airline — said traffic fell 2.2 percent in March, while Southwest airlines reported a 5.8 percent increase compared to last March.

The Transportation Department’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics has reported overall increases in air travel, not decreases.

When it comes to who is to blame for rising prices, 39 percent of respondents blamed Congress and 30 percent blamed President Obama’s administration. Those results were consistent among gender and age categories, but differences emerged when it came to race and political affiliation.

Thirty-four percent of whites blamed the administration while 33 percent blamed Congress — a statistical tie — while 75 percent of blacks blamed Congress and only 4 percent blamed the administration.

Not surprisingly, more Republicans blame the administration (48 percent) than Congress (21 percent). And more Democrats blamed Congress (56 percent) than the administration (15 percent) for rising prices. But independents also blamed Congress more than the administration, by a 39-26 percent margin.

For complete data please click here