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More than three-quarters of Americans (77 percent) say inflation is affecting their lives as the holiday season begins, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll — and a clear majority (57 percent) blame President Biden.
The survey of 1,696 U.S. adults, which was conducted from Nov. 17 to 19, also found that more of them selected inflation as the “most important issue facing America” (17 percent) than any other issue, including COVID-19 (15 percent), which continues to kill more than 1,100 Americans each day, on average.
And just 18 percent say Biden is doing enough to address it.
These results explain in part why the president’s overall approval rating has steadily declined to 43 percent in recent months while his disapproval rating has risen to 52 percent — and why, on the economy, Biden’s approval rating is even lower (40 percent).
Since last October, overall prices have soared 6.2 percent amid supply-chain bottlenecks and sky-high demand for goods — the fastest yearly pace in more than three decades.
In a speech Tuesday, the president announced he was releasing 50 million barrels of oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserve to help lower gas prices.
“We’ve made historic progress over the last 10 months,” Biden said, pointing to the 5.6 million jobs added to the economy since he took office in January. But “disruptions related to the pandemic have caused challenges in our supply chain, which have sparked concern about shortages and contributed to higher prices.”
He also vowed to continue “taking action.”
“The fact is, we always get through those spikes. We’re going to get through this one, and hopefully faster,” Biden said. “But it doesn’t mean we should just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own.”
The president has his work cut out for him. Like COVID, and unlike more favorable economic indicators such as quarterly GDP growth and monthly improvements in the unemployment rate, inflation is the kind of day-to-day problem that every American experiences firsthand. So are rising gas prices and shortages of goods and services, which another 4 percent and 7 percent of Americans, respectively, named as the biggest problems facing the country right now.
Yet unlike COVID, these pocketbook problems feel new.
The Yahoo News/YouGov poll underscores just how novel and pervasive they seem. In addition to the nearly 8 in 10 Americans who now say inflation is affecting them personally (37 percent “a great deal”; 40 percent “some”), more than 6 in 10 (61 percent) say the same about “shortages of goods and services” (17 percent “a great deal”; 44 percent “some”).
A majority of Americans (51 percent) also say they’re worried they “won’t be able to afford what they need during the holidays due to inflation,” while 45 percent say they’re worried they “won’t be able to get what they need” due to shortages.
So far, Americans are not pleased with Biden’s performance on these issues. Asked how much each of the following are to blame for the current inflation, far more Americans say disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (49 percent “a great deal”; 31 percent “some”) than say Biden (39 percent “a great deal”; 18 percent “some”). Mainstream economists agree with that assessment, although many say the administration’s $1.9 trillion stimulus package contributed to the spike.
But when asked who deserves “the most” blame, more Americans say Biden (35 percent) than the pandemic (30 percent).
Partisanship shapes that shift. Among Republicans, blame for Biden is overwhelming (73 percent), while Democrats blame both the pandemic (48 percent) and former President Donald Trump (29 percent). Republicans (32 percent) are also far more likely than Democrats (8 percent) to identify inflation as America’s biggest problem right now, and to say that Biden isn’t doing enough to address it (87 percent).
Yet inflation worries aren’t merely partisan. Nearly 7 in 10 Democrats (69 percent) say inflation affects their lives at least "some" — not all that many less than the number of independents (79 percent) and Republicans (90 percent) who say the same. A quarter of Democrats (25 percent) and more than a third of independents (38 percent) say inflation affects them a "great deal.” Likewise, Democrats are nearly as worried as Republicans about inflation (46 percent vs. 60 percent) and shortages (41 percent vs. 50 percent) affecting their holiday purchases.
And while nearly all Republicans (90 percent) and two-thirds of independents (65 percent) assign Biden at least some blame for inflation, more than 1 in 4 Democrats (28 percent) do as well.
That roughly matches the number of Democrats who say the president is not doing enough about inflation (25 percent) or shortages (27 percent). Perhaps even worse, less than half of Democrats say Biden is doing enough (39 percent and 43 percent, respectively), while about a third (36 percent and 31 percent) say they’re not sure — hardly a vote of confidence from the president’s own party.
Going forward, Biden is likely to continue to face resistance to his signature domestic priority: passing his $1.75 trillion Build Back Better plan, which seeks to address climate change while supporting working families with child care subsidies, cheaper prescription drugs, expanded access to health care and universal pre-K. A plurality of Americans support the bill (48 percent) — yet nearly as many (43 percent) believe it would “increase” inflation.
Republicans have made that argument the cornerstone of their opposition to the current legislation, as has centrist Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Yet Moody’s Investors Service said earlier this week that the bill would boost U.S. economic growth while having a "limited" impact on inflation because “additional federal spending would occur over 10 years” and “include significant revenue-raising offsets.”
The Yahoo News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,696 U.S. adults interviewed online from Nov. 17 to 19, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, as well as 2020 presidential vote (or nonvote) and voter registration status. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. adults. The margin of error is approximately 2.6 percent.