The effects of higher prices are increasingly affecting Americans as those reporting they are financially struggling have increased by double digits in the past year, according to a recent Monmouth poll.
Inflation and gas prices top the list of problems faced by families across the U.S., with a majority in the nationwide poll stating the federal government’s actions are hurting them and that President Joe Biden’s policies are not benefitting the middle class.
Forty two percent of those surveyed are struggling to remain where they are financially—the first time since Monmouth started asking the question five years ago that the range rose above 29%. Just under half (47%) reported their current financial situation is basically stable and only 9% say it is improving.
The number of people who admitted to struggling climbed by 18 points to 42% in the last year, with that increase being across the board when examining key demographic groups, including income, race, and partisanship. Currently, reports of struggling financially come from 58% of those earning under $50,000 (up 18 points from June 2021), 35% of those earning $50,000-$100,000 (up 15 points), and 28% of those earning over $100,000 (up 18 points).“Economic concerns tend to rise to the top of the list of family concerns, as you might expect, but the singular impact of inflation is really hitting home right now,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
Inflation, Gas Worries
Nearly half of the public named either inflation (33%) or gas prices (15%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now. The economy in general was cited by 9% in the survey, while 6% are worried about paying everyday bills.
Inflation and gas prices are the top two family concerns across a wide variety of demographic groups, including income, race, and partisan identity. Inflation first appeared as a top concern in Monmouth’s July 2021 poll at 5% and then grew to 14% in December 2021, before more than doubling in the current poll.
Gas prices for the first time were mentioned by more than a handful of Americans as their predominant issue. One year ago, the poll registered a wider variety of top issues, including the pandemic (17%), the economy (11%), everyday bills (11%), healthcare costs (7%) and job security (7%).
Washington Not Helping
And Murray noted that “most Americans are blaming Washington for their current pain.”
Nearly 60% pointed to the actions of the federal government over the past six months as having hurt their family when it comes to their most important concern—the first time this sentiment is in the majority. Just 8% respond that lawmakers in Washington have helped them and 34% say federal actions have had no real impact on their top concern. In prior polls, between 34% and 47% said government actions have hurt them on their biggest family concern.
Pollsters noted the results indicate little optimism about the in the days and years ahead, with 23% expecting future government actions over the next few years will help improve their family’s top concern compared with 45% who predict Washington will hurt them. One year ago, that response was basically flipped (40% expected to be helped and 34% expected to be hurt).
Biden Compared to Trump, Obama
Currently, 54% of Americans are of the opinion that the middle class has not benefited at all from President Biden’s policies, up from 36% one year ago. The 54% is higher than 36% who said the same about former President Donald Trump at about the same point in his term (April 2018) and eclipses the 46% who said the same about former President Barack Obama in 2013, when Monmouth first posed this question.
Seven percent are of the belief that the middle class has been helped a lot by Biden’s policies and 34% say they have been helped a little. A majority (52%) replied that poor families have not benefited from Biden’s presidency, up from 29% in July 2021. The current result was similar for Trump in 2018 (53%) but it is higher than it was for Obama in 2013 (37%).