Inflation and gas prices top the list of the public’s priorities

Americans have become concerned about rising prices and about half the public doubts that either party has the ability to get things done.

July 8, 2022

Dissatisfaction with the country’s economy has been growing, as inflation continues to rise, interest rates increase, and stocks enter a bear market. Inflation and gas prices top the list of Americans’ priorities for the government to address in the next year, but other priority issues differ between Republicans, Democrats, and independents. Nearly half of the public say neither party is doing a good job of getting things done, and at least 3 in 10 feel that neither party represents their values, shares their priorities, or understands what needs to happen to solve the problems they care about.

To explore the public’s agenda for the coming year, each December since 2015, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research conducted a poll in which respondents provided up to five volunteered issues that they believe should be priorities for the federal government. This year, The AP-NORC Center also asked the public at the half-way mark for the top issues the federal government should address over the next year.

COVID-19, a top priority for many Americans early in the pandemic, has faded relative to economic and other issue concerns. In December 2020, 50% mentioned COVID-19 as one of their top concerns. A year later it was down to 33%. But in the latest poll, only 4% name COVID-19 as a top priority.

Rather, Americans have become more concerned about rising prices. The problem most frequently cited problem is inflation (40%), followed by gas prices (33%). An additional 9% mentioned food prices. 

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years and leaving each state to set its own abortion laws. In the wake of the decision, more Americans are citing abortion or women’s rights as priority issues for the federal government to address than in any year since 2015. The decision to remove women’s constitutional protections for abortion was announced while the survey was in the field. Forty-three percent of the interviews were conducted before the announcement and 57% afterward. 

The December 2021 survey was fielded soon after a high school shooting in Michigan and twice as many mentioned guns as did so in the 2019 survey. Even more mention guns in the latest survey which was in the field when the Supreme Court issued a ruling that expanded gun rights and Congress passed the widest ranging gun violence bill in decades. Sixty-nine percent of those who mention guns as one of their top concerns, would like to see gun laws in the United States made much more strict. People who consider guns a priority are closely divided in their assessment of President Biden’s stewardship of the gun issue:  51% approve and 48% disapprove. 

Gun issues remain the top issue for Democrats, after replacing COVID-19 as the top issue in 2020. Independents are more likely to cite inflation and gas prices in June, up from December. Immigration is still a top issue for Republicans, but down from December. 

About 7 in 10 Republicans say the Republican party is better at focusing on important problems, understanding what is required to solve the problems, and representing their values. Almost as many Democrats say the same about their party. However, partisans are less positive about their party’s ability to get things done. Fifty-five percent of Republicans say the Republican party is better at getting things done and 35% say neither party can accomplish anything. Among Democrats, only 35% say their party and 45% say neither does. 

The nationwide poll was conducted June 23-27, 2022 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,053 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.0 percentage points.

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