- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Roughly 1 in 5 Americans point to inflation or rising gas prices as the most important problem facing the country, the Gallup polling company said Tuesday, underscoring the challenge for President Biden as he tries to sustain the pandemic recovery and punish petroleum-rich Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Pollsters said 17% of Americans cited the high cost of living/inflation as the top concern — up from 8% in January, while 4% cited fuel prices, up from 2%.

“This increase in concern comes as the U.S. inflation rate continues to climb, and is now at its highest point in 40 years,” Gallup said.

Another 11% point to the economy in general as their top concern, meaning economic worries account for more than a third of the top issues Americans cited to Gallup. 

“Americans’ outlook for the economy is now about tied with the most negative it has been since the early days of the pandemic in April 2020,” Gallup said. “Inflation doesn’t dominate Americans’ perceptions of the most important problem facing the country today the way it did in the early 1980s, but it’s more top-of-mind than it’s been in over three decades and appears to be taking a toll on Americans’ broader economic confidence.”

Mr. Biden insists the economy and the job market are on the upswing as he tries to lift the country out of the pandemic doldrums and manage the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

But the Federal Reserve has been forced to raise interest rates to manage inflation. Republicans are pressing the issue, claiming that Mr. Biden hasn’t tapped into domestic energy production to lower gasoline prices and that Democrats’ decision to spend big on pandemic relief funds overheated the economy.

Gallup said about two-thirds of Americans cited a non-economic issue as their top concern, led by 22% who cited “the government/poor leadership.”

The situation in Russia and Ukraine came next, at 9%, followed by things like unifying the country, racism and immigration at 5% each.

The coronavirus and diseases ranked relatively low, at 3%.

The poll’s results are based on telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,017 U.S. adults conducted March 1-18. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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