Between COVID-19, climate change and political division... there's a lot for us to worry about. But inflation, which recently hit a 40-year high, has quickly become one of the country's top concerns.
Nearly one in five (17%) Americans say inflation is the most important problem facing the country today, according to new Gallup poll. Inflation ranks as the top economic concern of those surveyed, and it's now the second biggest worry overall.
The country's most important problem, according to the poll, is more routinely up at the top of the list: It's "government/poor leadership," selected by 22% of people.
The survey was conducted by telephone in March and included a random sample of 1,017 adults living across the country. Respondents were able to choose multiple responses for which problem is the country's biggest.
It's been nearly four decades since inflation was so high on the list: Gallup says the current mentions of inflation as the country's most important problem are the highest the firm has recorded since 1985.
Of those surveyed, 4% said fuel prices were the most important problem, and 11% said the economy is general is the top issue. Only 3% said the main problem as of March is COVID-19/diseases, down from 20% in January.
The pollsters also asked around 700 respondents how much they worry about inflation, and 59% indicated they worried "a great deal," roughly tying with the 58% who said they worry a great deal about the economy. On this basis, inflation was also a leading public concern of the 14 issues the respondents were asked about, which ranged from crime and violence to the quality of the environment to the Social Security system.
In February, inflation hit a 40-year high with consumer prices up 7.9% from a year ago, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prices for gas, cars are soaring. You've likely experienced surging costs in your day-to-day life, whether at the grocery store or when getting your latest heating bill. People are even putting off large purchases like homes and vacations in hopes that prices will come down.
Inflation worries have recently accelerated
Americans' concerns over inflation began rising last fall, according to Gallup. Rising prices registered no more than 2% of mentions in surveys about the public's concerns throughout most of 2021. That number jumped to 5% in October, and shot up from 8% in January to 17% in March.
"Inflation doesn't dominate Americans' perceptions of the most important problem facing the country today the way it did in the early 1980s," Lydia Saad, Director of U.S. Social Research at Gallup wrote in a post accompanying the survey results. "But it's more top-of-mind than it's been in over three decades and appears to be taking a toll on Americans' broader economic confidence."
Interestingly, while inflation disproportionately affects poor people, Americans at the higher end of the income spectrum are also very concerned about rising prices. The percentage worrying a great deal about inflation who earn $100,000 or more (58%) is nearly as high as the percentage who earn less than $40,000 (63%), Gallup found.