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26% of Americans say economy is top concern, highest since pandemic

The number of Americans who rank economic woes as the country’s main problem has reached its highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to a Gallup poll on Monday.

The latest survey found that 26% of Americans consider economic issues, such as inflation, unemployment and general economic conditions, to be a top priority.

At the same time, Gallup’s measure of economic confidence has plunged for five months. The latest data shows a negative confidence of 29, close to the worst levels of minus 32 and minus 33 reached in April 2020.

Inflation is high and rising, pushing up prices at record rates and a wide variety of goods and services. The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner will increase by 14%, according to the Farm Bureau.

The most frequently mentioned specific economic problems are the economy in general terms at 10% and inflation at 7%. Unemployment was next at five percent. No other economic issue, such as the federal budget deficit, income inequality, or fuel or oil prices, exceeds 1%, according to Gallup.

Inflation fears are at their highest level since April 2001, but there is a clear partisan divide. Eleven percent of Republicans see it as a major concern, compared to just one percent of Democrats. Seven percent of independents say inflation is their main concern. The last time more than 7 percent of Americans cited inflation as a major concern was in May 1985, when it registered 11 percent.

As recently as September, inflation barely made it to the top of the list. The rapid rise in concern follows the resumption of inflation this fall and its highest level in 30 years in October.

This baffled the Biden administration and its allies on the American left. The administration initially argued that inflation was confined to a small part of the economy and would likely pass quickly. When inflation widened and showed signs of ramping up instead of fading, the Biden administration persisted in denying its importance until it switched to blaming companies for the increase. prices.

On Monday, the Biden administration announced it was appointing Fed Chairman Jerome Powell for a second term, a move many analysts say could be an attempt to show that the administration is now taking the threat of inflation. Powell is seen as more likely than other potential candidates to look to tightening policy to lower inflation.

The proportion of Americans who say they are most worried about the economy, now at 10%, had not reached double digits since 2017, when economic policies and the Trump administration’s promises to protect U.S. industry from China’s predatory commercialism has assuaged economic concerns.
Thirteen percent of Republicans said general economic conditions were a top priority, while 10 percent of Independents and 7 percent of Democrats gave that answer.

“Biden’s ability to improve his economic and overall job approval scores appears to be tied to his ability to cope with inflation and shortages, if the stronger parts of the economy can stay that way,” he said. writes Jeffrey M. Jones, editor of Gallup, in an analysis of the situation. survey results.

Despite the recent rise, economic concerns are well below the record levels reached during the financial crisis. In February 2009, 86% of Americans said the financial crisis was the main problem.

“Even in relatively good economic times of the past, it was common for over 30% of Americans to name an economic problem,” Jones wrote.

More Americans say the number one problem is government, at 21 percent. Concerns about the coronavirus have become the top priority for 13% of Americans, half of what they were during the Delta variant push in August. Other specific issues commonly mentioned as the most prominent issue in the new survey are nine percent immigration, six percent unification of the country, and five percent race relations or racism.

–UPI contributed to this report.

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