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WASHINGTON (AP) – Concerns about inflation and personal finances have surged while COVID has evaporated as a top issue for Americans, a new poll shows, marking an upheaval in priorities just months before critical midterm elections.
Forty percent of U.S. adults specifically name inflation in an open-ended question as one of up to five priorities for the government to work on in the next year, according to a June poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. That is a sharp rise from 14 percent in December and less than 1 percent the year prior. Seventy-seven percent mention the economy in any way, up from 68 percent in December.
Now, too, Americans increasingly call their personal finances a major issue: 44 percent mention it, up from 24 percent in December and 12 percent the year before. That includes more mentioning gas or energy prices (33 percent now vs. 10 percent in December) and food costs (9 percent vs. less than 1 percent).
Those shifts may be advantageous to Republicans as they campaign to win control of Congress in this year’s midterms; the economy has increasingly been a sore subject for President Joe Biden. Still, the economy is not the only issue getting more attention this year. Many also prioritize other issues that are core to Biden and Democrats’ agenda, including abortion, women’s rights and gun policy, which could help Democrats as they try to pad—or at least protect—their razor-thin majority.
In a troubling sign for both parties, the poll finds many Americans say they think neither side of the aisle is better at focusing on the issues important to them or getting things done.
Sara Rodriguez said she is concerned about the impact of rising prices of goods, gas and oil on her household’s finances, especially because her income is not keeping up.
“We’ve had a savings built up and we’re noticing that it’s definitely going down fast because we don’t make enough money to cover how much the cost of everything has risen” the 43-year-old quality control coordinator in Bristol, Connecticut, said.
Mrs. Rodriguez and her husband and son have had to get to their workplaces and run errands using one car over the last couple of months because of her husband’s broken-down truck.
“We just haven’t had the money to get it back on the road” she said.
The rise in concerns about the economy is paired with a steep decline in the percentage naming COVID-19 as a top issue, even as new variants continue to emerge: Now just 4 percent mention it, down from 37 percent in December 2021 and 53 percent in December 2020.
Republicans remain more likely than Democrats to mention the economy and inflation or personal finances and gas prices as top issues, but the sharp changes since December are bipartisan.
Daniel Collier, a 39-year-old construction worker in Waynesville, Missouri, thinks lowering gas prices should be a priority.
“It’s hurt me financially” he said.” worry about being able to pay the rent, pay utilities” /p>
The poll shows 69 percent of Americans disapprove of how Biden is handling the economy, including 93 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats. In May, facing an inflation rate at a 40-year high, most Americans said in an AP-NORC poll that they worried about the impact of higher than usual prices on their finances.
The poll shows a majority of Americans—57 percent—do not think one party is better than the other at getting things done. Thirty-seven percent do not think either is better at focusing on their priorities; the remainder split about evenly between the two parties. Politics is mentioned in some way as a top problem facing the country by 29% of Americans.
“It just doesn’t seem like anybody in government wants to work with each other and try to solve some of the issues that the American people face” 68-year-old Jacksonville, Florida, resident Charles Hagemeyer said.