Nearly seven in 10 Americans are worried about maintaining their standard of living, as concern has spiked higher in just the past five months, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
The poll shows that the weak economy and rising prices are high among voters' concerns, and contribute to a souring national mood in this presidential election year. More than eight in 10 said the country has veered pretty seriously off-track, and a separate poll released this week by ABC showed economic anxiety at its highest level on record since 1981.
Overall, 68 percent of people surveyed in the Post-ABC poll said they were concerned about their ability to keep up their lifestyles, a jump of 17 percentage points since December. The increase cuts across party and income lines, spreading rapidly among Republicans, people from rural areas and those from middle- and upper-income households.
Nearly six in 10 of those from households with annual incomes of $100,000 or higher said they were worried about hanging on to their living standards, up from a third in December. And 56 percent of Republicans in the new poll expressed concern, up from 32 percent.
In the new poll, 20 percent of those surveyed cited the higher gasoline prices as the single most important economic issue, and more, about a third, pointed more generally to rising prices as the primary cause of their apprehension.
Overall, two-thirds called rising gasoline prices a financial hardship, including a third who said higher pump prices have proved to be a severe burden.
Those who have not pared back their car use — more than half of all respondents — said that, on average, the price of gasoline would need to reach $5.65 a gallon before they significantly curtailed their driving.
Beyond gasoline costs, three in 10 Americans polled said they were having trouble paying other household bills because of rising prices. Of those finding the inflationary pressures hard to deal with, more than half were struggling with food costs, two in 10 with the price of electricity, 15 percent each with medical costs and other household expenses, and 11 percent with their housing costs.
The poll was conducted by telephone May 8 to 11 among a random national sample of 1,122 adults. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; error margins are larger for subgroups.