West Long Branch, NJ – The number of Americans who are financially struggling has increased by double digits in the past year as inflation and gas prices top the list of problems faced by the nation’s
families. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds a majority say the federal government’s actions are hurting them and that President Joe Biden’s policies are not benefitting the middle class. Preference for party control of Congress remains divided, with no real movement since the spring.
More than 4 in 10 Americans (42%) say they are struggling to remain where they are financially. This is the first time since Monmouth started asking the question five years ago that the number topped 3 in 10 – the range in prior polls was 20% to 29%. Just under half (47%) say their current financial situation is basically stable and only 9% say it is improving. The high point for improvement was 25% in April 2019. The number of people who say they are struggling has increased by 18 points since last year (from 24% to 42%), with that increase being fair across the board when examining key demographic groups, including income, race, and partisanship (* see note). 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).
Nearly half of the public names either inflation (33%) or gas prices (15%) as the biggest concern facing their family right now. The economy in general (9%) and paying everyday bills (6%) are among other financial concerns mentioned. Abortion, which has registered less than 1% on this question in prior Monmouth polls going back to 2015, is currently named by 5% – predominantly among Democrats (9%). Inflation and gas prices are the top two family concerns across a wide variety of demographic groups, including income, race, and partisan identity. Inflation as a top concern emerged in Monmouth’s July 2021 poll at 5% and then grew to 14% in December, before more than doubling in the current poll. The current poll is also the first time that gas prices are 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%), health care costs (7%) and job security (7%).
“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. And most Americans are blaming Washington for their current pain,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
A majority of 57% say that the actions of the federal government over the past six months have hurt their family when it comes to their most important concern. Just 8% say Washington has 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. The current poll marks the first time this sentiment is in the majority. The results also indicate little optimism about the future – just 23% expect that future government actions over the next few years will help improve their family’s top concern while 45% say Washington will hurt them. One year ago, that response was basically flipped (40% expected to be helped and 34% expected to be hurt).
Currently, 54% of Americans say the middle class has not benefited at all from Biden’s policies. This is up from 36% one year ago and it is also higher than 36% who said the same about former President Donald Trump at about the same point in his term (April 2018). It is even higher than 46% who said the same about former President Barack Obama in 2013, when Monmouth first posed this question. Just 7% say the middle class has been helped a lot by Biden’s policies and 34% say they have been helped a little. A majority (52%) also say 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%).
Biden’s overall job rating continues to trend downward. Currently, just 36% approve of the job he is doing while 58% disapprove. It has now been a year since Biden held a net positive rating (48% approve and 44% disapprove in July 2021). Just 10% of Americans say the country is headed in the right direction while 88% say it is on the wrong track. This marks an all-time low for this question going back to 2013. The prior low was recorded in May of this year at 18% right direction and 79% wrong track. Just 15% approve of the job Congress is doing, matching the May result.
“The state of the economy has Americans in a foul mood. They are not happy with Washington. However, that has not changed the overall picture of whom they want in control of Congress. The question is who actually shows up to vote in the fall,” said Murray.
The public remains divided on whether they prefer to have the Republicans (36%) or the Democrats (38%) in control of Congress. When the poll pushed for “leaners” among those who initially say party control does not matter, 11% gets added to the GOP column and 9% for the Democrats. The combined 47% Republican and 47% Democrat split represents a statistically insignificant shift from the parties’ relative standing in prior polls. Six in 10 (60%) Americans say it is very important to have their preferred party in control of Congress. This congressional control importance metric is similar among those who want Democrats (66%) and those who want Republicans (63%) leading Congress.
The Monmouth University Poll was conducted by telephone from June 23 to 27, 2022 with 978 adults in the United States. The question results in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, NJ.